Driving in a Winter Wonderland Christmas Eve. Fond memories.
| (This true tale occurred in the early 1990s BCP, Before Cell Phones. My car did not have a GPS system. Oh, and the Tim Hortons in Burks Falls Ontario, Canada did not yet exist.)
The windshield wipers squealed and slapped as they struggled to push the incessant snow. Huge fluffy flakes swirled 'round the car and obliterated the landscape. White drifts obscured guard rails, signage and road markings. This blizzard had blown in to herald Christmas Eve.
For the umpteenth time I checked the defrost setting. Set at the maximum output, the car's heating system pumped out hot air that just managed to clear tiny port holes in the windows.
From the radio, festive carols blared. I encouraged my three young children to sing along. We trilled fa-la-la-la-la. We jingled bells. We belted out a crowd favourite ' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.' We sang about not pouting and not crying. Once again, we were warned that Santa notices everything. For a brief respite, no one demanded to know when we would arrive at Nanny's.
Countless times I'd reassured them we'd see their grandparent 'soon', but time seemed to be dragging. They'd waited long enough and now Christmas danced so tantalizingly close. They fidgeted and suffered, strapped in a vehicle for an interminable road trip.
During the initial leg of our journey we'd speculated about once-a-year treats and possible gifts. We anticipated re-connecting with cousins. We shared memories of Nanny's elaborate decorations.
Our merriment dissipated around the time we were diverted from Highway 401 and re-routed to a secondary road. Adverse weather conditions aka whiteouts forced the closure of this major artery. With this storm front we would not be traversing the familiar 401-400-11 corridor. For the first time, we forged a new path between Kitchener and Sundridge.
So, I found myself chauffeuring the four of us in a northerly direction along an unfamiliar road while a snowstorm raged . Darkness descended. Headlights and tail lights muted, blurred. A pale halo preceded us. We burrowed a narrow tunnel through the whiteness.
Here and there, starbursts of red, blue, yellow and green flickered. We grew silent lulled by the muffling snowflakes.
In the sudden bright illumination of a gas station I noticed an unexpected figure.
"Hey, look, ' I exclaimed as I pointed.
Wiping the condensation from their windows, my subdued passengers blinked in surprise. Santa himself bundled in his distinctive red suit hunched at the pumps dispensing gas. I couldn't resist.
"Even Santa has a second job to pay for Christmas. We have plenty of time before he flies his sleigh."
Before long, traffic dwindled and we continued our steady drive. According to radio reports, the road we were following had closed behind us. Even if I had not been determined to reach Sundridge, I could not turn around now.
From the back seat gentle snoring erupted. Both of my daughters had succumbed to the lure of slumber.
I glanced over at my silent son who had chosen to ride shotgun. He stared unblinkingly at the windshield every muscle tensed. When I caressed his cheek he startled.
"Are you okay? Aren't you tired?"
Christopher shook his head.
"Mom, do you know where we are? This isn't the right way to Nanny's."
He raised a valid point. No, I did not know exactly where we were, but I sensed we were travelling in the required direction, and we would find Sundridge. Although I did not give voice to my thoughts, I suspected Chris would not have questioned his father under these circumstances.
Seeking something to reassure my worried son I realized that the snowfall had abated. In that minute, I noticed a transport truck in front of us. Out of the white void, it appeared in all its bulkiness. I recognized the Tim Hortons logos on the trailer and I hatched my plan.
"Do you see that truck in front of us?"
Christopher nodded, "Uh huh." "Well, it's a Tim Hortons transport. It's on its way to North Bay. You know there are Timmies there, right? He has to pass Sundridge on his way to The Bay. I'll follow him. He knows where he's going."
I held my breath. I did not know if Chris would accept my logic. I had no idea where that semi intended to travel. I had no clue as to where we were in relation to our final destination. As the swirling snow returned to cloak the big rig, I prayed it would stay on the road, create a path of less resistance for my vehicle and not lead me astray.
To my amazement, Chris visibly relaxed. He unclenched his hands. He crossed his legs. He rested his head against the upholstery.
For the remainder of our trek the glimmering red tail lights of that Tim Hortons transport guided me. We motored steadily along, the sole two vehicles inching northward. I've never been certain the driver knew I followed in his wake. He sailed in a plume of glittering white.
After what seemed like an eternity familiar landmarks announced our exultant arrival in Sundridge. I swear a beam of light emanated from the semi and it glowed as I signaled my intention to turn onto the Main Street. With a grateful unseen wave, I last saw my Rudolph and his semi-sleigh 'flying' north-bound undeterred by a Christmas Eve blizzard.