It wasn't the Christmas I expected. I'll even dare to say... wanted. But Christmas it was.
We planned and prepared all Advent long. We worked toward and fought against and waited in joyful hope. And then... the Grinch with his bony fingers and sneering face came and took it all away. That's how it felt. So there was a choice to be made. I could pout and cry and scream Boo Hoo... or I could hold my family and sing. We tried to sing. Squeaky, small voices, weary and battered. We tried.
We planned to go to our regular, beautiful, quiet, least crowded Mass on Christmas morning. Christmas morning at the Abbey with all of the monks we love, sleepy though they be from Midnight Mass before (which begins at midnight, of course!). It's warm and happy. No rushing around, no squeezing in. But Old Man Winter had a different plan. After seeing the weather forecast we knew our plans would need to change. We looked at the Mass schedule for the church closest by that required no bridges, no overpasses to travel over. 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. We were watching the roads carefully as our guests were still on their way. Yes, our guests! My father and his wife we coming to spend the night with us and the road conditions were making their 4 hour trip stretch into more. We missed the 4pm Mass.
We gave up hope of going to church with our loved ones still crawling toward us and thought we could try for the 6 by ourselves. Husband decided to test the roads alone first. He made it about 5 blocks before having to turn around. The wind and blowing snow made visibility none existent.
We tried again for 8 hoping that the winds might have calmed down enough. They hadn't. 40 mph with 60 mph gusts. That's a blizzard isn't it? This time, he made it only a few blocks before almost colliding with someone sliding through a four way stop. Neither of them could stop but thankfully, there was space between them.
At 9:30pm, my father finally arrived in his diesel truck with monster tires and 4 wheel drive. "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT," he commanded. Very seldom have I seen my father afraid of the road. His face was as white as the snow still whipping around us.
4, 6, 8, 10 or midnight had been our goal. We gave up the hope of welcoming Our Lord that night and went to sleep on a saggy air mattress in the spare room hoping that by unexpectedtly giving our bed to the guests who couldn't make it to the Holiday Inn, we might all be able to meet at the stable in the morning. 10pm or noon was our new wish.
Before 10 the next morning, Husband climbed into the cab of the mighty machine with 4 wheel drive and locking hubs and held on as my father who has never caved to elements before tried to travel the distance between us and our hope. He got stuck at the bottom of the driveway. The hill in front of our house was a sheet of ice. Our hope for 10 was gone.
12 o'clock was our last chance. Spanish Mass! We didn't care! We were going to be there!!! Once more, 2 Dads ventured out hoping to blaze the trail for us and came back defeated. The tall trees we love to gaze upon as fall changes to winter and then bursts into spring were holding the sun back, keeping the hill and streets shaded from the sun's warm fingers. We desperately longed for the Son, but would have to be content with "Not this year."
Now, for those of you reading this in places that are used to the cold and fluffy white bounty of winter, let me just explain... our only shovel is pointed and does a wonderful job digging holes. Salt? Why yes, there is a sweet little girl holding an umbrella on this container right here. Is that enough? Sand? We like it on our beaches very much, why would we keep some in the garage? The weather men were reporting that this kind of weather has negatively impacted Christmas Eve and Day travel only 12 times in the last 168 years. This is Texas after all!
Around 2pm, the temperature was warm enough to turn the ice to slush, but there was no Mass to be found. Or so we thought.
My BIL called and mentioned that they were heading out to the Latin Mass. Latin Mass? LATIN MASS!!! We haven't been in years, but we could make it. Our guests had left and everyone was still in the beautiful clothes I made them put on 8 o'clock that morning, just in case! We piled in the car, crunching over the once treacherous glaze with relative ease. Over bridge, over ramp, we made it with time to spare! We sat, happy and warm in an unfamiliar church, waiting for an unfamiliar Mass, but all expecting that very familiar person we had come to see. Him. He was coming. We had made it.
As the voices of the choir gently drifted down from the loft above sweetly singing of angels, I wanted to spend the next half hour in prayer thanking God and waiting for Mass to begin. I fiddled for my rosary and looked over at my beautiful family. Shortcake was crying. Huh? Husband took her to the back to find out what was wrong. Just a little over tired, for sure!
They were back. He nodded his head reassuringly. She was fine. The choir was on to another hymn. BigBoy was playing with my rosary pouch. Shortcake burst into tears again. This time, I took her back. Calm words, comforting hugs. She is my most emotional one and sensitive to music. Poor dear, just like her mama used to be at that age. One sappy song and I was sunk! More soft words, more reassurances, more hugs. Back to the pew. Calm sweet girl, sitting next to me.
Another song. Surely Mass would begin soon! The water works begin again. Back to the back. This time... consoling, imploring, even begging. Could you just make it through Mass? Please. I'll stay in the back with you if you'd like. It would be the best Christmas gift you could give us. (Guilt? you might cry. You used guilt? Yep. I was desperate!) Mass had started now. We could do this. Duck in quickly to tell Husband I was going to hold down the fort in the back. He was in command of the forces in the pew. We couldn't sit together, but we could do this!
In the back, she and I hunkered down. No chairs, no benches, no heat. No problem! Sit on my coat honey and just try your best! It's OK! Really, it's OK!
"Mom, my tummy doesn't feel good."
You know what came next, right?
She made it home with a box that once held cookies for the BIL's family we hoped to visit with after Mass tucked underneath her chin. It had a snowman on it with a hat that said "Believe!" Why does that strike me as funny now? (Don't worry BIL family, we'll find a new box for your treats.) She also had a rotten headache and really dark circles under her eyes. No fever. I suspect a sinus migraine. She was fine this morning.
Husband and I looked at each other last night, after everyone was tucked in bed. We tried, we sighed sadly. We certainly tried.