So I started Christmas by allowing my computer to suffer a massive heart attack and die, taking with it the logon information for this blog.
This was, of course, the Greatest Gift of All for people who don’t like this blog. It was also a pleasant break for me, which I used to find another (the awesome HP Envy, featuring Features as well as many parts that do the things I need it to do such as run Word and Outlook and play music and hook up to the interwebz and send stuff to editors and also talk to our speakers and stuff like that. Then on Saturday, I spent the day restoring my files from the cloud wrong and watching a d0cumentary on Bing Crosby because I am basically a Republican at heart, especially at Christmastime.
On Sunday, we went to Mass right up the street at St. Pius in the m0rning. This allowed us to sleep in a bit, which I appreciated because I was up late struggling with the computer. After that, Jan went and got Angie, a family friend who is afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease. The plan was for her to hang out with us Christmas Eve Day and then come to the Children’s Mass at Blessed Sacrament at 5 PM. However, as the the day progressed and I looked in on Facebook, we began to realize that a Christmas Miracle was unfolding western Washington. First, this picture from Lacey, Washington, just south of the Great Train Wreck showed that my brother’s house was indeed getting the first signs of an actual White Christmas:
In order to get some perspective on this, understand that Seattle had 11 white Christmases in the entire 20th Century. Our last one was in 2008 and before that it was 1987, if memory serves. So this is a Big Deal.
As the afternoon wore on, we got bulletins from various people telling us the snow was coming north, first in Ballard, then in Shoreline. We looked out the window at dusk and, sure enough, it was falling in our own back yard. Wondrous!
And a logistical challenge. Seattleites are completely hopeless in snow. We just close the city. Two inches is sufficient to paralyze all traffic and lead to nightmares in travel. This is because a) Seattle is built on a fjord with ridiculous hills everywhere and b) it has virtually no equipment for dealing with a. Main drags eventually get a plow or salt or gravel. Back streets (meaning “my entire town” just north of Seattle) not so much. Here is a typical scene of winter driving in the Land of Queen Anne Hill, where the shadows lie:
A few years back, one wretched friend of ours left her job at Columbia Tower at 2:30 and spent the next ten hours trapped in SoDo, trying to get across the bridge to west Seattle. She got home at 1 AM. People were literally pooping in the street because there was just nothing else they could do.
Have I mentioned how grateful I am to work at home?
Anyway, when the snow started falling it came down fast and Jan and I, with the practiced minds of old married people agreed by mental telepathy that any attempt to drive the eight miles to Blessed Sacrament in this weather was, ‘ow you say?, insane. So we decided to go to the Children’s Mass at St. Pius.
At least, we hoped to do so. However, we brought the car down the hill next to our house so that it would be easy for Angie to get in. The problem was getting back of the hill. For a minute or two, it looked as if Angie would be spending Christmas with us as the wheels spun fruitlessly on the ice. But eventually I decided, “If force fails, use more force” and by this policy manage to simply burn enough rubber that the friction to inertia ratio slowly drove the car up the driveway and on to the street.
This achieved we headed off to St. Pius again, which turned out to be wonderful! It’s a suburban parish with 50 bazillion kids, and the Nativity play was adorable. Father Cal Christiansen is a wonderful shepherd who invited all the kids up to the front for the homily and sat on the steps of the altar to give it. Supernerd that he is, he managed to link the gospel reading to Star Wars and make the case that both stories are about Hope, which I loved.
The sanctuary was gorgeously Christmasmassy, with trees and poinsettias and a giant manger scene in which Father placed the Christ child, before he blessed it. The music was splendid. It was such a joy!
After Mass came the next great challenge: getting Angie home. We had planned a trip to look at Christmas light, but the storm forbade that. So we crept down the main drag in town at what I thought a sensible rate of speed. I discovered my error when we came to the first red light and I applied my brakes, only to continue forward at the same rate of speed. Happily the driver at the intersection perceived my predicament and let me pass since physics trumps civics.
The next intersection was met at a fraction of my former speed and I successfully stopped without hitting anything. So there’s glory for you. After that was a long, leisurely drive that eventually led us over the north end of Lake Washington to Juanita (a town, not a person) and the terrifying adventure of getting a fragile little old lady who can barely walk across an extremely slippery street with a very potent slope. Jan and I held her tightly by each arm and took tiny baby steps till we reached her level yard. I was petrified that we were all going to fall and wind up sliding down the hill. But with much prayer, God was with us and we got her in the house. One of the aides there (she lives in an assisting living house) told us he was stuck by the side of the road and suggest we go back up the hill we had come down.
So we slipped and slid our way back to the car and waited for another car to pass us before pulling out (we were parked in a bare patch under a tree). That car went crawling by, hit the brakes and proceeded gto slide cattywampus to the bottom of the hill, barely avoiding ending up in the intersection.
I decided to move at micro-speed. It made no difference whatsoever. It turns out a one ton van on ice simply slides at any speed. We avoided the cattywampus car, but then slid precariously close to a huge pickup truck in a driveway, stopping only inches from it. The ground was mostly level there, so we managed to get our nose out into the intersection.
All around us were the broken minds, hearts, and souls of other drivers, whose Christmas Eve was not going well. Across the street there was a car sideway, with the occupants out and trying to figure out what to do without sliding down the hill they had come up. To our left was another car across the road. There was space to get around it but then came the deadliest challenge of all, the *very* steep hill down to Juanita Drive. One full block of 45 degree angle, ice beckoning us to our death as we slid out on to a road with cars moving at disastrously high speeds since Seattle drivers believe the superstition that black pavement means “no danger here”.
With me alternately praying and using liberal quantities of excremental profanity every time the car slid toward a fire hydrant, ditch, or (worst of all) exactly where I was trying to go, we headed down the hill and (to my intense relief) made it to the bottom without sliding out in to the intersection, there to begin my Hallmark Channel story of Triumph Over Crippling Tragedy.
Jan and I both heaved a sigh of relief and I foolishly said, “Now this will just make a great story” before realizing “You fool! We aren’t home yet! Are you kind of imbecile who says ‘This ship is unsinkable’ or confidently announces, ‘I think we lost him’ in a slasher flick?” I quickly made superstitious amends, declaring that nothing is over till we pull in the driveway in front of the house, which (thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ) we did about 15 minutes later, there to remain safe and warm till perhaps April, and enjoy the bliss of being cozy and Christmassy and watch our tree while we sipped Irish Cream. It meant missing the DeVet-Adair dessert fest, but it was a sacrifice we were willing to make.
The following day, at Christmas, we had the Whole Crowd over: all the guys with sundry children and Significant Others, as well as Aunt Mary and Uncle Michael. Our house is not all that big, and we have inherited the custom from my wife clan of just hurling wrapping paper everywhere, so it was quite a snug Christmas. We had all sort of deliciousness in terms of breakfasty food as a prophylactic again too much sugar. The chillens had a wonderful time doing Present Distribution Duty and everybody got something they *especially* enjoyed while also enjoying everything they got. I scored this:
…as well as other wonderful things, the most lovely being a framed picture of an old couple walking in the woods that nicely captures my sweetie’s heart (who captured mine).
Folks stayed till evening and at one point a bunch of us went outside and had a glorious snowball fight in which we all got wet and there were feints and intrigue and strategems and little kids triumphed over adults and then the littles got cranky and tired and it was time for folks to go. We even got a little singing in before the crowd took off. You just couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful celebration of the birth of Jesus.
I have since completed my ritual watching of It’s a Wonderful Life, which I love without shame as I love pretty much all Frank Capra movies (and agree that it is his greatest, which is saying something in my book).
Tonight I think I may conduct my ritual viewing of A Christmas Carol, because I love Dickens, and old things, and never tire of it, especially at Christmas. My only struggle is which one to watch? Alistair Sim (the greatest *redeemed* Scrooge of them all), George C. Scott (wonderfully icy and forbidding), or maybe Patrick Steward and the Jawa of Christmas Yet to Come, just for variety.
Dunno. But I mean to squeeze 12 days out of the 12 days.
Meanwhile, Merry Christmas to you and yours! More later!