Saturday, December 24, 2016

"In The Memory Bank" Jim Terry

As I sit here and stare at my Christmas tree that was set up for this wonderful holiday, I can’t help but to think of where this year went. Doesn’t it seem just like yesterday we were welcoming in the first day of spring, enjoying the warm summer nights or even ushering in the first days of fall?  And as quickly as time seems to pass, it also astonishes me that my brain, at least as far as I can tell or maybe remember, processes or stores most of those experiences I have into my “memory bank.” 

Memories also seem to manifest more easily in certain environments and surroundings, I have found. Have you ever just sat quietly in your living room during this time of year with Christmas music on on, witnessed the smell of pine or cinnamon in the air and stared into your Christmas tree?  It always surprises me that when I do this, that the longer I stare at my Christmas tree, each individual light eventually merges and becomes one big warm glow of light where the defining edges of each light, or even the shape of the tree, become fuzzy and are lost. It is at that moment, that I find myself flooded with memories of Christmas’ past. 

It was December 2009 and I was flying home for the holidays to be with my family in Boise, Idaho.  It was a journey that started with a flight that was delayed for ninety minutes but was made up for with a flight that was full of…well…really quiet cheerful people.  

As we approached Boise for landing, the captain came on and said that visibility was “very low” and we may not be able to land due to the “fog and the amount of snow” that was falling on the ground.  Needless to say, there was a short, sweet and humble prayer said in my heart that night that we would be able to land in Boise. They always say, “The third time is the charm,” right? Well, it was on our third and final attempt at landing in the inclement weather, and just before we would be diverted to Salt Lake City, which we bumpily, yet safely touched down and taxied to the gate in Boise.   

About two months prior to my trip, I had reserved a “mid-sized” car.  I quickly made my way to the rental car company’s counter as soon as I had disembarked the plane. Once I reached the counter, I then offered my name and reservation number to the employee.  There was a bit of hesitation before he spoke and I could tell there was something not quite right because of his awkwardness and body language. It was the very same type of awkward silence that one may experience when you try and crack a joke that you think is funny and as you await the laughter of your listening audience, hear nothing but crickets in the background. Once the crickets begin to fade, this is what I heard the employee tell me.

“I’m sorry sir. We just ran out of the type of car you requested and I do not have anything available but an economy car.”

I guess that’s what happens when you arrive on the 24th of December at about midnight. So with a firm discussion on why we, as patrons, make reservations and a heavy discount from the rental car company, I gratefully accepted the keys of my new ride for the week and walked out to the parking area where my vehicle was waiting for me.

As I stepped outside, I could not believe how MUCH SNOW was on the ground. It literally was about 18” and still snowing heavily. The few cars that were left in the rental parking area looked like a giant mounds of snow verses anything resembling a vehicle.  As I walked past each mound, I kept hitting the unlock button on my car’s keyless remote to identify which “mound” was mine.  It wasn’t until I walked almost all the way to the end of the lot that I heard that familiar “chirp” of a car unlocking its doors and saw the red glow of the taillights through the snow that was heavily covering every aspect of my vehicle.  

Once I found the door handle under the snow and opened my vehicle, I immediately found the snow brush so I could start the daunting task of cleaning all the snow off of the car so I could make it safe for driving.  As I continued this task, the first thing I noticed concerning my car is that it was definitely red.  Secondly, what once appeared to be a descent sized automobile, slowly disappeared and became one of the smallest cars I had ever seen and certainly ever driven.  It was almost like there should have been a sign on the car that states, “You’re on candid camera” or “Welcome to “Driving 101 in snow without snow tires and in a Toyota Yaris.”

I left the airport and got onto I-84 and headed west. As I was traveling towards my parent’s home at about 35 mph due to the road conditions, you could literally feel the snow pass by on the undercarriage of the vehicle because it was so deep. Also in some areas on the road where the snow was deeper and more compacted, you could even feel the car be pushed and moved around due to how light and small it was. 

As I pulled into my parent’s cul-de-sac at just past midnight even with the flight delays, the weather, the downsized rental car and all of the hassles of traveling, I was rewarded when I saw their home and felt a certain stillness, tranquility and peace there. With the quiet crunch of the tires on the snow as I slowly pulled in to park, I noticed the inflatable snowmen on my parent’s front yard waving hello. Each Christmas light that adorned their home and the bushes outside were covered with snow, creating a familiar multi-color glow through the surface of the snow fashioning, what could be, a perfect Norman Rockwell painting. And finally as I stepped out of my car and took in a deep breathe of that familiar winter air, I noticed the silhouette of a concerned loving Mother, way past her bedtime, peaking out from behind a partially open front door welcoming her son home.  This easily made my surroundings…well…undeniably serene and beautiful!

The next day was Christmas Day.  The morning was the same as always…lots of fun, laughs, tears and the joys that one may experience when your family is around and spending time together. After the opening of the gifts and seeing what Santa had brought us in the morning, we had also planned on going to a movie in the afternoon. 

As we all walked outside to go to the theatre, three volunteers stepped forward that wanted to ride in the very small car I had rented.  It was my Mother, my brother Mike and I believe my Dad who had enough courage to ride in my little car. The brunt of the jokes, all that morning amongst my family and eventually some of my friends I met later in the week while I was in Idaho, was my rental car.  They had nicknamed it, “the Shoe” because of its “smallness.”

So something to know about cul-de-sacs or any roadway that is constructed that meets a sidewalk.  As I’m sure most of you know, there is a bit of a slope or grade on the roadway towards the gutter so that when it rains or the snow melts, that the water runs off of the road and into the storm drain which then leaves the roads clear.  Well it was the slight grade of the road that day and the weather the night before, which created one of the best and funniest memories I have of Christmastime.

We all got into the vehicle, my three volunteers and myself, and put on our seat belts.  Also just before we got into the car, I had told all of my family that we were going to do some “cookies” or “doughnuts” in the cul-de-sac and to “watch my amazing skills.” I then started the car and jokingly revved the engine of the car, before I put it into reverse.  This elicited some giggles from those in the car and those of my family that witnessed the “rev of the engine” on the exterior of the vehicle. It wasn’t until I put the car into reverse and applied the gas, that the laughs really began.

Overnight and by morning, the road’s surface under all the snow and under the tires of my car had frozen and created what most of us know as “black ice.”  So as I applied the gas and because of the road being frozen, the slope of the road towards the gutter and having no snow tires on the vehicle, we went absolutely NOWHERE…the wheels just sat there and spun.  As the laughs continued about the mighty “Shoe” that was our transportation to the movie that day, I finally could feel the car gently start to move and rock, just a little bit, as the wheels continued to spin.  It was finally getting a little bit of traction on the surface of the road below us. And then it hit me how we were to get unstuck…I told my Mom, my Dad and my brother Mike to “rock with the movement of the car” and that should get us unstuck “eventually.”  So as the rest of the family stood on the driveway watching with smiles on all of their faces, this is what they observed.

They watched four adults in a car, just the right size for four rodeo clowns, rock back and forth inside of the vehicle and observed what some call a “Christmas Miracle.”   The car went back…the car went forward…the car went back and the car went forward again…It wasn’t until after about twenty to and fros with the movement of the car and the clowns inside, that the “Shoe” was ultimately freed from the icy road and the gravity that inhibited it from moving freely from the curb.   

Have you ever laughed so hard you cried? Well this was one of the instances that I not only did this myself but watched the tears of joy run down the cheeks of all those involved both inside and outside of the vehicle. This moment definitely brightened our Christmas Day and has become one of the warmest, fun and heartfelt memories I have of Christmas with my family.

And as the shape of the Christmas tree in my living room once again becomes defined and the lights on the tree are no longer just one big warm glowing mass of light, as I slowly come out of my meditative Christmas’ past trance, I am slowly reminded of the many gifts that I already have...I have my health…I have many remarkable friends…I have my family…and I have my life. And as I age, I also find out that the most important thing at Christmastime, or anytime of year, is “To Be Together” ( with those I love so that I might experience, recognize, appreciate and store those experiences, amongst all the others I have, "IN THE MEMORY BANK."



(The link to the great song above is for all of you but specifically to my sister Angie and my niece Savahnna. Thanks again for going to Amy Grant's Christmas concert with me, so we could "be together."

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