what road are we on?
Excited we all bundled into the car. Grandma and Grandad were visiting from England and we were heading out on a very long drive to visit Grandma’s brother and his family in Rhode Island. We three kids, and our assortment of things-to-do-in-the-car, jostled for position in the back seat with Grandad. Mum was driving because Dad wasn’t able to come. The navigator, Grandma, was in the passenger seat juggling her distance glasses and her reading spectacles and several maps. Her knitting bag was at her feet. The trunk was full of suitcases and treats and bedding and anything else Mum thought we might need. Freshly baked pies balanced on the ledge behind the back seat.
Fifteen minutes into the trip and the car games began. How many station wagons can we see? Followed by Volkswagens, then blue cars, etc. Who can see the most cows? Let’s name a vegetable for each letter of the alphabet… followed by fruit and cities and… Well, you get the idea.
The games soon collided with “get your foot out of my face!” and “are we there yet?”
On a major highway in the U.S., about three hours into our summertime, car-with-no-air-conditioning, 14 hour trip…
“Mum, do I turn here or go straight?”
“Irene, just a minute, love, I’ve dropped my spectacles. I can’t see the map.”
“Quick Mum I need to know now!”
“Irene, I dropped my spectacles! I can’t see the map! I can’t find my specs!”
I looked at Grandad. Grandad looked at me. We started giggling. It didn’t help the situation.
An hour later and Mum was looking for a gas station, or a store, or someone walking. She didn’t know where we were, let alone how to get to where we were going. It was gray—the day, the neighbourhood. It was not a “nice” neighbourhood. It had a bad feeling about it. We were well and truly lost.
At Christmastime, do you ever feel like you’re lost, on a road that gives you an uneasy feeling? Sometimes we don’t even know how we got there. Often it’s the accumulation of past Christmases. Before we even start down the road to this Christmas, it’s already littered with broken dreams, disappointments, unrealistic expectations, loneliness, sadness, discouragement, discontent and an acute awareness that once again, no matter how hard you try or how early you start, it will not be the perfect Christmas you’re looking for!
The tin-canned Christmas music jars the nerves like the empty lives and phoney smiles around us. The balance on the credit card is fed ’til it’s as stuffed as the turkey.
We discard our dreams along with the torn and tattered wrapping paper. Our expectations become as dog-eared as the tree decorations.
Broken toys are abandoned just like our broken relationships.
Somehow, perhaps gradually, we’ve missed the road to the real Christmas. Traffic snarls along with the drivers who hug their cars to the bumper in front of them. Like the raisins in the fruitcake, you have no room to move. You’re swept along with and in the traffic, no one cares that you’re yelling in protest—no one would listen, even if they could hear. The crowd has swept you along in their rush of sameness, commercialism, follow-the-leader, go-go-go, but don’t think about where they’re going or where they’ll end up.
And now here you are, stressed and lost on the road of festivities and happy holidays, strangling in a mess of Christmas lights, gingerbread, tape, ribbon and tinsel—and silver isn’t even a good colour for you.
It’s been so subtle—a curve here, a detour there, a wrong turn at the lights, a shiny new road beckoning. And now you’re lost in a place you never wanted to be.
Why don’t we dash away and get back on the true road to Christmas? First stop? Coffee shop. Wash your hands. Splash your face. Buy a large coffee and a donut, or maybe tea and a slice of fruitcake. Buckle your seatbelt.
The road ahead might be a little bumpy. We might see things, hear things, we’ve forgotten. There could be things that slow us down. We’re sure to get tired and fearful. But, we’re on this road together. We can help each other.
Oh! You’re probably wondering what happened to us, lost on the way to Rhode Island…
Mum didn’t seem frazzled, but I was scared. She slowed the car. An elderly man was walking and Mum was determined to get directions from him. The car stopped. The man came quickly towards us.
Mum opened her door and had one leg out when the man shouted. “Don’t get out, ma’am.”
Mum got out. “I’m just wondering if…”
“Ma’am, get back in the car. NOW!”
“Yes. But first I need directions. We’re lost and…”
“Please, ma’am, get in the car, turn up all the windows and lock the doors.” By this time the man, with his head poked into Grandma’s window, was exasperated, frustrated, and frightened. “You can’t stay here! Just keep driving down this road for a ways and you’ll come to some stores and lights and a gas station. They’ll help you.”
Grandma ordered Mum to do as the man said. The back seat wasn’t giggling anymore. Mum returned to her seat and drove. We all held our breath until the landscape looked a little brighter and little friendlier.
“There’s a gas station!” Grandma yelled. Mum slammed on the brakes.
“Denise, stop fooling around…”
Mum’s annoyed voice soon changed to peals of laughter as she turned to look at us. The pies had escaped the confines of the back seat ledge. We were all covered in pastry and fruit and juice. Grandad rescued a chunk off his shirt and put it in his mouth. “Delicious, Irene! Just like your mother’s.” Amid the laughter and the stickiness we got back on the right road and eventually got to our destination safe and sound.
Being on the wrong road was a scary experience, not to mention my mum’s driving! Looking back it’s a funny story with memories I will always treasure.
There’s always the possibility that something unexpected, even something scary, might happen as we travel, but if we let our fear stop us in our tracks we’ll never have stories and memories to treasure and share.
So, what do you say? Ready to journey together?
I’m getting excited. This is going to be an adventure of Biblical proportions that’s worth writing about!
Let’s journey together…