For many years, I’ve lived away from my family and for holidays and special occasions I made a four-hour road trip to my parents’ house quite often and I never thought twice about it. I packed up my car with all my stuff, gassed up at the station and made my way up North to see my family for the holidays.
There’s one trip that was different and will always make me believe in the spirit of Christmas and in honor of the special days ahead, I wanted to share this story with you, the moms from #momspumphere because I know you’ll appreciate it.
Before I was married and before I had children, I spent part of the Christmas holiday with my then-boyfriend (now husband) and his family and the later part of the holiday with my family. I woke up Christmas morning and planned to drive through a snowstorm to have dinner at my aunt’s house, where I would see my parents, siblings, niece, and cousins. The snow didn’t worry me because I had grown up driving in bad weather and knew what precautions to take (drive slowly, take my time) and I was prepared for an emergency because I was pretty sensible. I kept extra blankets and a snow shovel in the trunk and I was pretty confident the weather wouldn’t be that bad.
I was wrong – and I was wrong on many levels. I didn’t get a head start like I usually did. Instead, I stopped to see a friend on my way off the Island and I lingered a bit too long. The snow looked so pretty coming down and we felt so blessed to have a white Christmas. It really looked magical against the lights of the Christmas tree.
With a late start, I made my way across two toll bridges and headed up the NYS Thruway after getting out of the city. The snow was starting to stick and cars were moving more slowly, but I had dinner on my mind and I wanted to be there by 2. I went faster than I usually do and I could feel the roads becoming more slippery. I was confident I’d arrive before dinner was served.
Other cars were covered with the beautiful powdery snow and the temperature was dropping quickly. I had Christmas carols playing on my new stereo in the car (a gift from my boyfriend) and I was paying more attention to that than the roads. I sped up on a straightaway, hoping to gain some time so I could have ham with everyone else – and I lost control of the car.
I feel like time stopped and everything went quiet and calm. My two-door car drifted quickly (and silently) across another lane of traffic, turned around 180 degrees and then slammed down into a snowdrift on the median of the four-lane highway. Brakes couldn’t help, downshifting didn’t help and I was sure the only option was to just let it go. I felt very calm and secure – even though my car was stuck in a snowdrift during a blizzard.
I’ll get my shovel and dig out. Maybe it’s not that bad,I thought. I was wearing flats – not the usual snowboots I would wear for a regular trip home. I didn’t even have warm socks on. I went to the trunk to get the shovel – it wasn’t there. I must have taken it out to make room for the Christmas presents I was bringing upstate.
I called my cousin at my aunt’s house and asked her to tell everyone I would be late, but save me a plate. I didn’t want them to worry, but I was starting to panic a little bit.
I got back in the car and thought, I’ll flag someone down and get a tow truck to pull me out. Then I realized I had $7 and forgot my checkbook. I quickly looked in my visor for my emergency $20 bill, and saw it was no longer there. I used it last week when I needed gas, I realized.
How could I have made the trip without everything I needed? No checkbook, no extra money, no sensible shoes? Why did I drive the car so fast – knowing the roads were bad? I was two hours from my boyfriend but still two hours from my parents. What was I going to do?
Just then a tow truck pulled up from the opposite side. The driver was a young man, about my age and he said he was on his way to another call in the other direction, but he saw me lose control. He turned around (illegally) and asked if I was all right and then said he could help me.
“I don’t have any money to pay you,” I said.
“That’s OK,” he said.
“Please, sir, let me take a bill from your service, and I’ll mail you a check next week. You can’t do this for free.”
“No worries, ma’am. Please don’t send a check because my boss would be upset I didn’t go straight to the call he sent me to. It’s Christmas – consider this a gift.”
He towed my car out of the snowbank, righted the car, and said, “Merry Christmas, Ma’am,” when he drove away.
That trip upstate was my longest road trip. It took almost ten hours to get home. The heat in my car stopped working, my driver’s side windshield wiper broke off, and the Thruway ultimately closed. I was forced to leave the highway before my exit and I abandoned my car because the storm was so severe. A troop of ladies - my mom and her sister along with a cousin and my sister - arrived in an SUV to rescue me from a nearby train station.
To this day, I think of that particular Christmas and what a horrible ride that was – but I also think of how warm the moment was when I was rescued. For someone to help me so easily and kindly when they could have surely found a way to take advantage – warms my heart about how good people can do such great things in our world.
I hope that his act of kindness continues on even with this article so that others can feel inspired to create similar moments in their own lives and share more kindness with people they meet.
During these times of celebrations and festivities, please drive safely and carefully with secure car seats, lots of extra blankets and supplies, and be prepared for long hours of travel on the road. If you should find yourself in a situation similar to mine, remember to ask for help because you may meet a wonderful person like I did.
Happy Holidays to our moms. May the warmth of holiday spirit be with you and your families.