It had already been snowing an hour when they left, and they had talked of not going. But spending Christmas with their parents was a tradition and they would miss it if they didn't go.
They loaded the suitcases, gifts, toys from Santa, blankets, snacks, and set out. It was two o'clock in the afternoon, two days before Christmas, and the trip would be long and tiring.
The children, a boy of five and a girl of seven, were excited even though they knew from past experiences they would be in the car for a very long time. It would be their first time to make the trip in snow and the little girl wondered if they could make it over the mountains.
They headed south and the longer they drove, the heavier the snow fell. They had to stop and clean the wiper-blades several times and everytime they stopped, the young parents would turn to each other with a look of concern.
"Does Grandpa have the star lit?" the little boy asked? Years ago, his grandfather had made a large wooden star and decorated it with lights, which he kept turned on throughout the Christmas season.
"Of course it is," the little girl said. "It's always on for Christmas."
Four hours into what was normally an eight hour trip, the little Rambler turned off their southern route and headed west. So far they were only an hour behind their usual time at that point in the trip. In spite of the weather, they had made good progress. When they spotted a truck-stop ahead, they decided to stop and get a bite to eat.
Truckers wearing heavy boots and mackinaw jackets sat hunched on stools, drinking hot coffee and discussing the snow and road conditions. The four travelers settled in a booth and began to scan the menu.
"'Hit's a bad one an' 'hit's still comin' down," one of the truckers said to the waitress. "We ain't seen snow like this for four or five years."
The young parents heard and their brows bunched with concern. Were they doing the right thing? They had come this far without a problem, but should they turn back?
The diner was warm and the food was fortifying. The children talked of how much they wanted to see their grandparents. Other travelers came in and some talked about accidents they had seen on the highways.
"'Hits supposed to get windy tomorrow, and that's when she'll drift," the trucker said. "But I've only got 50 more miles and I'll be home."
Back in the car, extra blankets were brought out and the children were told to settle down. Daddy had to concentrate on the road and couldn't be distracted. The slap-slap-slap of the wiper blades beat a steady rhythm and the childish chatter ceased.
The mountains were steep and they had to go slowly. There were 'hairpin' curves, and the road was narrow. A snow plow had gone through ahead of them, and it had helped a little. But even with the road partly cleared, it was still slow-going.
Rock cliffs soared on one side of the road and fell off into deep ravines on the other. Although it was usually dark that time of day, the white snow made it seem less so. They were traveling without chains, but the tires were new so they had good traction. The tractor-trailers would move up the mountain at a snail's pace. Then when it reached the top, the driver would shift to his lowest gear and begin the long descent to the bottom. They had already seen two tractor-trailers overturned and lying at the bottom of a ravine, their wheels in the air, their cabs covered with dirt and snow, and they suspected they would see others.
The grandparents worried. They knew their loved ones were on the way home and they were frightened. "They should not have come this year," Grandma said. "Those mountain roads are treacherous, even in good weather. The truckers can't see in snow like this, and they'll run over that little Rambler." Grandpa hadn't even tried to sleep.
Sometime after midnight, the young mother said, "So far, so good. It's taking a lot longer than before, but we've come more than half-way." She had been silently praying throughout the trip.
Hot coffee was poured from the thermos. The children were fast asleep.
"Momma, make sure and wake me when we get there so I can see the star." The little boy was snuggled under his favorite blanket, holding onto his teddy bear. The little girl had lain her head on a soft goosedown pillow.
They saw several abandoned automobiles and wondered where the occupants had gone. There weren't any houses or gas stations around.
At one point the father braked in the middle of the road, climbed out of the car, and scraped the wipers again. "We must be nuts," he said as he slid back under the steering wheel. "There's at least 10 inches out there."
"How much longer?" the mother asked.
He heaved a deep sigh. "If our luck holds out, we should be out of the mountains in an hour."
More hot coffee was poured and some peanut-butter and crackers were brought out.
Grandfather had paced the floor for hours. "If they left when they said they would, they should be here by now." His wife had gone to bed and tried to sleep but couldn't. She shook her head. "They won't make it in 8 hours this trip. Oh, I wish they had stayed home this year."
"If they should slide over the mountain, it's no telling when they'll be found. The snow will bury their tracks."
Grandma scolded. "Stop that kind of talk, Frank! I refuse to think like that. They'll make it, God willing."
At three o'clock that morning, the morning of Christmas Day Eve, the little Rambler turned off the highway for the few remaining miles of their trip. Hearts beat faster as the weary couple peered through the falling snow. Leaning forward, the mother said, "Do you see it?"
With the sleeve of his jacket, he wiped the windshield and leaned forward. He was so relieved. They had come out of the night and they had made it. "Yes. Yes. There it is. There it is."
"I see it, too!" she exclaimed.
"Wake up you sleepyheads, wake up and look! Do you see it? There's Grandpa's Christmas Star."
© Marilyn (LaraOct7@aol.com)
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The midi is "White Christmas".