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Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Christmas Eve adventure

This is not Santa Claus.

I haven't abandoned The Stained Glass Project, though it's been a while since I've done a regular Sunday post. It just takes some time and effort to study and research each window, and while I had the time to do it today, I opted instead to screw around on the Internet. More soon, I promise.

It snowed this past week, quite a bit. We had six to eight inches of snow on Friday, and additional minor accumulations on Saturday and Sunday - just enough to make it necessary to scrape, shovel, and salt. The morning of Christmas Eve we got pounded again, this time with ice and freezing rain, which made existing road conditions much worse.

I had to babysit my nephews that morning, since both my brother and sister-in-law had to work that day. The plan was originally that I would get out there for 6:30; my sister-in-law would be leaving at 6:00 and my brother would be leaving at 6:30, and I would hang out and wait for the boys to get up, have breakfast, and get dressed, so I could then drive them back the nineteen miles of winding, narrow roads - some of them up and down a mountain - to my mom's house, where they would hang out until my brother picked them up on his way back from work in the afternoon.

Plans changed the night before, based on the predicted weather. My sister-in-law decided she would go in to work an hour later. So now I didn't have to be there at 6:30, I had to be there at 7:00. No big difference from my point of view.

I got up, showered, dressed, ate breakfast, and was on my way by 6:15. Road conditions were awful, so I picked my way slowly along the road, keeping pace with the other traffic - generally at 25 miles per hour. The hill climbing part of the trip was...interesting. I was pretty interested in whether the people coming downhill at me would be able to handle the turns. They did, mostly. (There was a rollover at the bottom of the hill about an hour after I came through.)

I got to my brother's place at 7:00 on the dot, having taken 45 minutes to travel 19 miles. I got there to see my sister-in-law waiting in her SUV in the driveway, and an unfamiliar car crashed into their front lawn.

"Ummm, what's up with that?" I said as I pulled up.

"She spun out at the corner and went off the road," my sister-in-law explained. "She's stuck in the snow."

Well, the boys were still asleep and I had nothing to do for a few hours, so I decided to see if I could help. "Be careful!" the woman in the car cried as I duck-walked up the driveway. "Don't slip on the ice!" she warned as I slipped on the ice. (I fell, but I have learned how to fall. And falling on ice is easy, much better than falling on a surface with greater friction.)

We tried to assess her situation. Front-wheel drive Pontiac, front wheels off the road and onto the roadside snowbank, snow packed under car. Rocking back and forth had done nothing but dig her in deeper. I decided to try cat litter under the wheels. I did not have any in the car, a situation I remedied later that day, but my brother's family has a cat. Unfortunately they use scoopable/clumping cat litter, which tends to turn to paste when it touches water. Not very effective as a traction aid.

Next we tried shovels. Again, I did not have one in the car at the time, but I was able to locate two of my brother's shovels that seemed like toys. (At least one was a toy, a kid's snow shovel that had been buried in the snow on the front lawn, but the other was a real snow shovel of a less serious design than I am used to working with.) We dug out the snow from under her car as best we could.

We also received generally unhelpful assistance from a few passers-by, most of whom managed to dig her car in a bit deeper. She explained her situation to each in turn as I chivalrously held her pink umbrella over her head - or over my head, when I would occasionally zone out and forget that I was supposed to be keeping the freezing rain off of her. The last one seemed to know what he was doing, and I trusted his skill with the gear shift enough to actually get in front of the car and push it with my mighty muscular thighs. (Why do people try to push things with their hands? Compare the femur to the bones of the wrist. Discuss.) After a few back-and-forth rockings - with me pushing on the back, and retreating on the forth - we managed to get the car moving. I was so happy that I fell flat on my face as the car backed away from me. Luckily, I landed in deep snow.

A few hours later I found myself stuck in the driveway, trying to get to my mom's with my nephews. The shovels were called back into action, and then I remembered the magic of Low gear. We drove our way carefully along the winding downhill road, past the remnants of the rollover accident. When we made it onto a relatively clear straightaway, the boys began to pepper me with questions about how Santa Claus covers so much territory in a single night, which I answered by explaining that Santa actually travels by means of a quantum wave function in a Bose-Einstein Condensate, effectively being smeared out over entire sections of the world at once and using chimneys as resonant chambers for triggering the momentary collapse of his wave function into a particular location for a twinkling of an eye.

Seven hours later I made the trip back to my brother's house for Vigil Supper, this time with my mother and sister in the car. And then back to my mom's house three hours later. And then to Midnight Mass at 11:15 - my mom is in the choir and had to be there early - and back home again at 2:00.

So I was a little bushed for Christmas Day. And since I had to be up for work at 3:00 the next morning, I never did bother to wake all the way up. So for me, Christmas has only just begun.

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