By Doris Schroeder
The swooshing sound of the wipers almost lulled me to sleep as Dad maneuvered the ‘39 Mercury down the narrow Oklahoma highway. The winter night had descended swiftly as our trusty old car valiantly fought her way through the sleet and snow that had been falling steadily for some time.
“Will we make it?” my nine-year-old intellect wondered for probably the tenth time that evening. My two and a half-year-old sister Carol was sleeping peace-fully on her mound of bedding piled up in the back seat and I lay sprawled across mine peering out into the whitened blackness. My vivid imagination could well picture what dangers lay ahead for this family of four who dared to journey clear from California to Kansas in the dead of winter, on the day before Christmas, my favorite time.
Dad’s tired eyes squinted into the darkness, trying to focus on the narrow black ribbon highway through the mass of snowflakes playing hide and seek in his line of vision. “Well, if you must know, I think the tire is going down again so we need to find a gas station where I can fix it. Doris, you can help me look for some lights and hope there is some place our out here on ‘66 where we can stop!”
As Dad and I kept our vigil, my mind raced back through the events of the last year. We had moved from a Kansas farm to Mc Farland, a little town in California where Dad had worked for his cousin, Ike. When the war broke out in ‘41, we moved to Pittsburg, California, where Dad worked in a defense plant. Then his cousin and his wife had come up and urged my parents to move back to McFarland where Mom and I ran a little grocery store and gas station while Dad was a bookkeeper for his cousin’s oil business.
But now the Kansas farm was available again and we were moving back. My parents had piled all our possessions in our car once again, and we were headed back for the good life of farming,
It was fun living in California but I had missed my friends in the country school of Sunrise. I could hardly wait to get back with all my old friends with my new stories of life in “the golden state.”
Suddenly there was a dim light in the distance, almost a snow mirage in the blackness of the night. As we motored on, we could make out the obscure lights of a gas station. “Well, this has got to be it.” my Dad announced as he turned in the drive of a little country station and motel.
Mom prodded my sister Carol awake and soon we were bustled into a little one room motel with a kitchenette.
In a matter of minutes we were busy with our designated tasks. My job was to entertain my sister. Mom bundled up to walk over to the little grocery store at the station and Dad drove the car to the station’s garage where he planned to take off the faulty tire and patch it…again.
I played paper dolls with my little sister, trying to brush away the sadness I felt. Christmas Eve had always been my favorite time of year and I had always looked forward to it. “What kind of celebration could we as a family have out here, stuck out in a lonely, forsaken motel in the middle of nowhere!”
Then I felt ashamed of myself, my parents had enough to worry about, moving to Kansas in winter, on old tires that needed patching every few hundred miles. Dad had tried to get some new tires for the trip but the rationing board didn’t think it necessary.
Soon Mom was back with a little sack of groceries and bustled around the little kitchen, making hot chocolate on the two-burner hot plate and boiled ham sandwiches. The little table was all set just as Dad came in with his greasy hands. I could see by the light of the lonely bulb hanging down from the ceiling that he was really tired.
We all sat around the table and Mom brought out our chipped cups of steaming hot chocolate and we gobbled up the sandwiches like they were going out of style. Mom, who always liked to sing suggested we vocalize with some Christmas carols. We all chimed in on “Away in a manger” and “Silent night.” I can imagine what our choir sounded like…Dad, an almost monotone, my three-year-old sister and me with my untrained voice. I’m sure the one who kept us in tune was my mom. Still it was a happy foursome whose note wafted into the Oklahoma landscape on that snowy Christmas Eve.
Following our little musical, Mom went to her shopping bag and pulled out some little gift-wrapped packages. My sister got a doll and I was given a little gold heart-shaped locket that opened up and a little New Testament, the two things I had secretly wished for but hadn’t expected to receive.
I felt blessed to have a family that cared about me and believed in the One for whom we celebrate this season. It was three years later that I personally asked Him into my life. That is what Christmas is all about!
Doris welcomes your thoughts and can be reached at [email protected]