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Rated: 13+ · Monologue · Experience · #595207
The Journey of Two Friends
         It hit me as the car nosed its way into another curtain of white. "The guy in the red suit has the best idea; reindeer and a sleigh would leave this mess far behind." My traveling companion in the back, the four-legged creature with shaggy hair had no comment. She continued her heavy breathing while standing with her front legs on the console between the front bucket seats. The brave woman seated in the passenger seat squeezed my thigh as a token of affection, and made a pithy comment on the driving habits of the people in the left lane, using her best blue language.

         I did not blame her for shifting into truck driver's mode; obnoxious idiots in Urban Assault Vehicles all seemed to think that possessing four-wheel drive gave them absolute possession of the road. They ignored the flotsam scattered along the guardrails until they ended up in the same position, having forgotten that turning and stopping were part of driving too.

         Warning signs dot the hills: "Use Flashers If Speed Is Less Than 40MPH." On Christmas Day this admonition referred to the entire right hand lane. Those in the passing lane had their pedal to the metal, hitting forty to fifty. Was it any wonder that the majority of accidents were on the left rather than right shoulder?

         Southward from Kingston to Harriman, fifty miles, the New York Thruway is an uphill drive. Oddly, going north, it also seems to run uphill. It is not an illusion. The lanes are well-separated and comprise two separate roads. The hills slow the speed. There is a Service Area on each side just north of Newburgh. We stopped there. When I got out of the car to retrieve Pam's boots, which were in the back of the Outback Sport wagon, I realized the actual weather was worse than it appeared from inside our snug cocoon. The snow drove into my face. I grabbed the boots, shut the hatch lid, opened the door on Pam’s side and expected her to swing her feet out to put them on. Had she done so, the driving snow would have filled the passenger seat in no time.

         She closed the door, took off her shoes and put on the boots, emerged and headed for the bathroom and a cup of tea. I took the dog out of the back, gave her a drink of water, walked her to a curb where she added to the moisture, and turned back to the car. She broke into a run to get inside. She was covered with snow. After cleaning the wipers and the windows, I joined Pam inside, watching in amazement as the counter help at Mickey D's consulted their manual to learn how to make a cup of tea. They put through a call to Thomas Lipton, with the result that the two of us could herd each other back to our port from the storm.

         By now I had to clean off the car again before we could join the other brave souls in the Christmas Day traffic. We had known the storm was coming when we finalized our plans to meet at Pam's sister's house in Bergen County on Christmas Eve afternoon. Pam would be coming from her apartment near the Jersey shore, where only sleet and rain were forecast. My weatherman on Albany television drew a swath of white on the map, stretching from the Poconos in the southwest to Green Mountains of Vermont in the northeast. He foretold that these areas, including the Hudson Valley, would receive 12-24 inches, starting in the morning on Christmas Day.

         Despite being forewarned, we pressed on. We were to drive to my house after spending Christmas Eve evening with her sister and brother and families. We planned to leave early enough Christmas morning to be at her son Philip's before the storm became too bad. We would leave Pam's car with her sister and take mine, which has four-wheel drive.

         Our 125-mile drive north late in the evening of the 24th was magical. From our entrance to the Thruway we could see, up on a hill, the motel where Pam spent the first night of her honeymoon thirty-five years ago. Fifteen miles on, we passed through the toll barrier. There the Thruway becomes my magic carpet through the Hudson Valley until we depart at Catskill, cross the river on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, and drive another twenty miles north.

         A pale moon peeked from between clouds as we pulled into my driveway. The dog and cat greeted us excitedly. I plugged in the lights on the tiny tree that I had salvaged from my old office in Pennsylvania. Margaret, my neighbor, had stopped earlier to walk the dog and drop off cookies, home made bread and a small present for Pam. We saved these until morning and retired to a long winter's nap without anything happening out on the lawn.

         Our morning was diddled away, walking the dog, opening presents, having a Pam-made breakfast, thanking Margaret on the phone, sharing a warm shower and making the most of our first Christmas together. 'Making new memories' is how Pam puts it; she has that way with words. At 11:30 a.m. it was time to go. We rearranged the packages to make room for the dog. She was given two-thirds of the back seat; Pam's Baked Ziti, bags of cookies and other foodstuffs occupied the other third.

         There had been a dusting of snow, but none was falling as we drove off. It hit ten miles south, before we crossed the river. By Saugerties, fifteen miles south of Catskill, it was apparent that sane people would hole up in the house and ride the storm out. Only fools or those sharing a vision of life would go on. Which category we fit into, I do not know. We wanted, or were destined, to share this adventure; her hands on my leg, or my right hand holding hers for a brief second, to remind each of our friendship.

         Off the Thruway at Sloatsburg, it was another thirty or forty miles to her son's house near Greenwood Lake. The roads were two-lane, the snow fell just as hard, but conditions did not get worse. We arrived before four in the afternoon. By six we were ordered to spend the night, Pam taking one of the children's rooms while I was given the big living room couch. The dog took up residence in the middle of the living room floor, near the fireplace.

         Morning brought sun and the pleasant surprise that the private road, on which the house sits, had been plowed. An hour drive brought us back to Pam's snow-covered car at her sister's house. There we had a cup of tea before each of us drove off our separate way, Pam to the south and I to the north. I found twenty-eight inches of snow in a drift blocking my front door. Luckily, my shovel was outside. I hewed an opening while the dog waited impatiently. I then brought out the snow blower and cleared enough of the driveway to get my car off the road.

         Before starting the blower, I called Pam to let her know I was home and to make sure she was safe. We had missed our departing side-of-the-road embrace that we usually have when I follow her to work after staying at her house. This call would have to do, this and the simple words that Pam had given me my most wonderful Christmas since my daughter was little and still thought of Santa. Another holiday is coming; we are making plans. So is someone else. My weatherman told me last night that the next batch of bad weather will arrive New Years Eve!

Valatie December 27, 2002
© Copyright 2002 David J IS Death & Taxes (dlsheepdog at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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