To grandmothers house we went.
And believe me when I say we experienced almost every kind of weather you can imagine.
We left sunny 70 degree Houston on December 23rd completely unaware of what was just down the road.
Lufkin was our first stop for dinner and a peppermint milkshake (it was Christmas after all). First thing we noticed was that our phone had ridden on the bumper of the Suburban for the last two hours. Impressive. This was the phone that my sister had bought to replace the phone I had packed and taken to New York. Bill doesn’t think all that phone taking is as funny as me.
Milkshake in hand we loaded back into the car to head to Arkansas. Before we even got out of the parking lot I spilled the entire milkshake all over me and the car. No matter how many times I’ve washed it, the car door is still sticky.
About an hour later we drove into the hardest driving rain we had seen in a long time. Around Texarkana the radio interrupted its programming with tornado warnings. Not watches people … WARNINGS. Saying things like … “if you are in a car, seek shelter immediately.”
The only shelter we saw was a Burger King and it wasn’t open.
So we just kept plowing through the rain hoping to stay just a step in front of the tornado.
About an hour outside of Little Rock we blew a tire. To SHREDS. It was still pouring rain and, between you and me, Bill doesn’t change tires. I mean, he has before and he probably could again, but in the pouring rain … not so much. He had to check the car manual just to see where the spare was located.
And then … hoping and praying he had paid the bill, he pressed the on star button and “like a voice from heaven” he heard … “OnStar, what is your emergency?” He explained about our situation including the fact that a tornado was practically on our bumper and they told us they were sending “30 minutes or Less Roadside Service” to fix our flat and that they would be there in one hour.
I thought that was hilarious. 30 minutes or less in an hour? The Onstar guy didn’t laugh.
Two of the nicest Razorback fans you’d ever want to meet showed up and fixed our flat and got us back on the road in no time.
Only the road was shut down about a mile later. The highway. Completely closed due to flooding. It was now 1:30 in the morning and we were being diverted through a small Arkansas town to avoid driving straight through the river on the freeway.
I decided we should start referring to Bill as Clark Griswold.
On top of all this, the Minnesota relatives we were flying to see the next morning were leaving us messages saying “a blizzard of epic proportions” was predicted. Predicted at the exact time we were flying in.
Seriously, the only thing we were missing was a hurricane.
We went to bed in Arkansas at 3:00 AM. I was fully prepared to sleep til noon and fly to Minnesota in a day or two when the blizzard had passed, but before I had even gotten into a deep sleep it was 8:00 AM and Bill was loading the car. Said we needed to race to beat the blizzard.
No shower, no make up … very little sleep and we were off to Minnesota.
Two things to note: It did snow for two days. A lot. The most on Christmas Day in Minnesota since 1944. But it was not a blizzard. I know that because I have watched Little House on the Prairie and I saw Pa trying to walk to the barn in a blizzard to feed the horse and the snow was blowing sideways and Pa could hardly stand up.
So I think they oversold the “blizzard” thing a little bit.
And the other thing … on our way through the Little Rock airport we came upon a mom and her two small kids. I wish I had a picture, but I can assure you we won’t ever forget it.
The little girl had on a USA cheerleader outfit and was holding a flag. The little boy was just a baby. Standing beside her was a soldier with a camera. If you remember “Operation Coke and a Smile”, I had some McDonald gift cards ready to give. When I tried to give one to the soldier in uniform he said … “I’m a commander. Please give mine to her … she’s waiting on her husband to come home.”
And just the fact that he was so selfless and giving even off the battlefield caused me to get choked up.
When I gave that mom two gift cards … one for her and one from the commander …. she began to cry. She thanked me, but let me assure you …
it was our family that received the blessing.
I wish I could have seen that soldier come home and greet his wife and little girl. But it makes me happy to know that sometime over the holiday they probably made their way to McDonalds and those kids got to eat a Happy Meal with their daddy.
And that mom had her soldier home for the holidays. And that the family knew that there was a family somewhere (waiting for a blizzard) that was appreciative of the sacrifice their family made for our freedom.
And to them and to you … Happy New Year.