Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

December 30, 2012

Holiday spirit on the side of the road

It's Christmas Day and we're due at the Grayling home of my sisters-in-law at half past noon.

I accidentally sleep in late, having forgotten to set the alarm. My husband is on the phone with a friend in Pakistan, but I can't stop to say Merry Christmas because I have 15 minutes to get ready. I take a quick shower, brush my teeth and throw on some clothes, then cut several strings off the spiral scarf a friend in France made me for Christmas, and which just got caught in my brush.

Meanwhile I hear my husband's shower start downstairs. As he pounds back up to the bedroom, now late himself, I pack a cooler with the peppermint-stick ice cream we're taking for dessert. Like a well-oiled machine, he grabs the cooler and the box of gifts we wrapped the night before and heads to the garage to get the car. My coat and boots are too far away, and besides, I'm wearing a heavy sweater, so I slide my feet into some flats near the front door, snag my purse off the entry table and start down the sidewalk to where the car is now waiting.

As we slip and slide through our neighborhood, hit hard by the snowstorm, my husband remembers he forgot to turn off the coffee machine. Back we go the way we came, pushing our way through the pack of dogs eagerly awaiting us at the front door as if we've been gone for hours. As my husband turns off the coffee, we decide another three minutes won't hurt, and start a cappuccino for me. We pour the drinks into thermal cups, check to make sure both machines are off, and hurry back out to the car.

When we get about as far as we made it the first time, I remember I forgot the printout that goes along with one of the gifts, a tin of coffee from a centuries-old luxury delicatessen food store in Munich known for its exceptional kaffee brand. The tin is its signature coffee, made from beans grown and sun-dried on a fourth-generation family farm in Guatemala that produces Cup of Excellence-winning Antigua coffees. Daunting as the thought of having to explain all this is, I decide not to go back for the printout and we finally make it out onto the main road.

About an hour east, we remember that we forgot to get gas, and we're nearing empty. Since our options are limited on Christmas Day and we still have the return trip home, we find a station that's open and fill up. Ten minutes back on the road, we hear a funny noise.

"I think we have a flat tire," my husband says, as he steers the car to the shoulder. He gets out the flimsy jack and spare, then removes the plastic cargo hold floor to lie on while changing the tire. It's cold, and I've left my coat and boots at home, so I wrap a thick wool blanket around my shoulders and stand outside to direct traffic around us.

Almost immediately, a motorist stops to see if we need help. It's a roofer on his way home to Gaylord after a Christmas Eve visit. Soon we're joined by two others, both on their way to Christmas Day celebrations. They're cheerful and happy to help, and insist on staying until the tire is completely changed. Then, as if in some holiday movie, they wave and call, "Merry Christmas" as they climb back into their cars, though they're late for their own family gatherings.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa.

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