Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My worst Christmas ever: A tale of travel gone wrong

My worst Christmas ever began innocently enough at my mother and father’s house on Christmas Eve. It was 1975. I was 25 years old, married with three young children. My mother had made whiskey sours in a blender and my youngest brother Fran was there with us. My older brother Bob lived in Rutland, Vt. and someone came up with the brilliant idea of going and picking him up in Vermont and bringing him home for Christmas.

Under the best of circumstances, it takes three hours to drive from Connecticut to Rutland. This was not the best of conditions. It was Christmas Eve at about 8.00 p.m. and we had had a couple of whiskey sours each. After a quick call to Vermont to be sure he wanted to come home, Fran and I set off to go and pick Bob up. My husband being the good guy he is took the kids home and put them to bed. After all, the next morning was a big day for them and usually, they are up at 5 a.m. to open presents.

The trip up to Rutland went pretty well. We arrived to pick Bob up before midnight. It was cold and snowy in Vermont and by the time we left Rutland it was snowing pretty hard. We usually drive down Route 7 to Route 103. By the time we left Rutland I so was tired I decided to put my head down and fell asleep. I didn’t get to sleep very long before my brothers woke me up. Something was wrong. Fran had not taken the turn onto 103 and now it was snowing very hard and he had no idea where he was.

Oh, terrific, we are lost in a snow storm in Vermont and it is already Christmas Day. I was starting to get hysterical; not because we were lost but because I might not make it home in time to see my children open their Christmas presents. In those days of course, we didn’t have cell phones or GPS. We drove until we saw a phone booth and of course my brothers sent me out into the snow to call for help.

It’s 2.00 a.m. on Christmas morning and I am in a phone booth in the middle of nowhere. I called an operator and somehow she was able to tell where I was. We were near Stratton Mountain Ski resort so she could give me basic directions to get us back on track so that we could head toward I-91 which is what we needed to get home.

The snow was falling very hard now and this was in the days before four-wheel drive or even-front wheel drive. We were in a 1968 Cadillac with rear-wheel drive so the going was slow. I was sure that I would never make it home in time to celebrate Christmas morning at home. After a long dark slippery night of driving 360 miles, we made it to Portland at 7:00 a.m., about 2 hours after my children usually get up to open presents.

My wonderful husband had realized that what we were doing was crazy and had placed a blanket over the entrance to our living room so that the children could not see anything and when they woke him up at 5:00 a.m. he gave them their stockings to keep them occupied until I got home.

I was half dead from lack of sleep and needed a shower but I was home alive and my brother would be with us. I never did such a crazy, dangerous thing again and even though it made for a pretty horrible day what with lack of sleep and stress, I never regretted what we did.

My brother Bob died a couple of years ago and sleeping in the back seat of the Cadillac for a few minutes with my head in his lap is what I remember of that horrible Christmas morning. It reminds me of the beginning of a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

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