Moving my foot from the brake to the gas pedal, I nudged the car forward another foot and a half. The vehicles in front, behind and beside me did the same. The sandwich shop on our right was actually open. I tried to talk my husband into getting out and buying us all something. After all, when his purchase was complete, we would probably be no more than a couple of yards further down the road. Stuck on the freeway after a terrible car crash? Leaving a Razorback football game? Wrong and wrong. This was actually a historic occasion. It was the last time ever that we traveled to see the Osborne’s Lightmare on Cantrell Road in Little Rock.
The first part of that particular Christmas had been very traditional. Presents opened, a light meal for lunch at home (our big feast was always on Thanksgiving), grandparents on their way back home. Then, we drove to the big city for one last look at Christmas lights, including a stop at the State Capitol, which was festooned in its usual tasteful style. Up to this day, I had always thought that the people who lived near Jennings and Mitzi were a bunch of Scrooges. What could be so bad about over-decorating your house? As I suffered through that line with thousands of other fools, I loudly encouraged my loved ones to please enjoy this. I was far too concerned with staying the correct distance from the bumper in front of me to feel any holiday cheer.
Two years ago, we visited that same light display, now relocated to a special area of the Disneyworld theme parks. The weather that day in Florida had been distinctly non-winterish, but after sundown, there was a cool breeze as we walked past movie-set storefronts, collecting soft soap flakes on our nose and eyelashes. The relocated Little Rock lights gleamed proudly, dancing to perfectly timed Christmas carols. Oohs and aahs in many different languages emanated from joyful people, all on foot instead of in cars. We were proud to be from Arkansas, but even prouder that the spectacular display was now settled in its perfect home.
I re-arranged the line of Christmas stockings on our mantle one more time. With the addition of our newest grandson, things were getting very crowded. I could hear the unasked question from my husband. “Why are you doing this when none of them will be here to see it anyway?” This newest little one was too young for travelling, and I had been recovering from surgery when he was born. I couldn’t wait to hold him when we headed to his house for Christmas. But, we had had hung stockings for every member of our family since before we had a mantle. I was determined to continue the tradition.
A few days before we loaded up the car to head down I-30, crafty Grandpa created two wooden ladders and painted them to match the trim in our living room. They provided the perfect spot for all of the glittery stockings, one on each side of the fireplace, with room to expand in the future.
Christmas Eve has been the time for holiday gatherings for my husband’s family as long as he can remember, so his sister and her fiancé still come over each year for dinner and relaxing. Last year, the plan was that the nearby kids and grands would come from Conway County to our house after they opened their presents at home on Christmas morning. If you remember, Bing Crosby’s favorite song became a harsh reality last year. As we watched the weather reports on the twenty-fourth, it became apparent that our White Christmas would be striking with a vengeance. There would most likely be very little traveling going on anywhere in the state. My smile was sagging more and more as the evening wore on. Finally, my very astute husband asked, “We’re going to have to go to Morrilton tonight, aren’t we?”
Trying to be polite to our guests, I removed the appropriate Christmas stockings from their spots on the ladder, and began loading a box with the presents that remained under the tree. Somewhere around 8:00 ish, we headed north, and spent the last few hours before Santa’s annual visit in front of our grandkids’ Christmas tree, soaking up their smiles before rushing them off to bed and beginning our trek back home.
Over the years, my Mom went along with our crazy schedule as much as she could. But, on Christmas Day for the last few years, she insisted on taking us out to dinner. “I don’t want you cooking,” she would say. “We’ll go out, just the three of us.” There are very few places open on that special day. Her choice was a restaurant that is more famous for breakfasts, and in particular pancakes. Their Holiday dinner fare, to be honest, left something to be desired. But, oh what fellowship, what joy filled that unlikely celebration. That is the new tradition I will miss the most this year.
Treasure each moment, and adapt as needed. God has a perfect plan for this, and every day in our lives.