I swear I don’t make this stuff up.
December 18th: Asheville, North Carolina. The promoter says to get on the plane because the show will go on come rain or snow; in their case it’s snow. About 10 inches. Now, granted I’m from Texas and don’t know too much about you cold weather creatures, as I have never shoveled snow and find it unthinkable that you’d even leave the house if flurries are in the forecast; however I know enough to listen to the weather man when he says, “Historic amounts of snowfall,” and “winter storm warning.”
To me, that means: Don’t travel, idiot.
But assured that the show was still on, we left our southern haven and flew straight into the eye of the storm. As we drove from Charlotte to Asheville I counted the wrecks. I counted the people stuck in patches of ice. I counted the skid marks that went over little hills and disappeared. And I watched unfortunate cars spin around and around and around.
And I thought, “What person in their right mind would get out in this kind of weather? What band would drive me to such idiotic measures?”
The only acceptable answer, of course, was The Beatles.
Short of that, I wouldn’t even look out the window in this kind of weather. And in my gut, I knew no one in his or her right mind would face a blizzard for us.
We turned off the highway and onto what looked like a deserted road covered in deep layers of snow. There were hand written signs on storefronts that said, “Closed because of Weather.” And the only signs of life were college kids with face muzzles and little eyeballs poking out that were pounding each other with snowballs. It was eerily deserted. Beautiful. But eerily deserted.
Sure enough, we get to the venue and over the course of the next hour, as sound techs and other venue employees call to say they can’t make the drive; the show is cancelled.
We get in the van. We go to the hotel. My gosh it was beautiful. Roaring fire. Antique pieces of art and paintings. The kind of upholstered chairs that sit about 3 feet higher than your back and are covered in a velvet that costs more than my car, and a front desk staff who wore crisp ties and would not give a room quote out loud, rather, it was scribbled down on a piece of paper. You know it’s an expensive room if they can’t even speak it.
The promoter said the hotel was behind the McDonald’s next to the Biltmore. So that is where I lead us when we came to the split in the road by Mickey D’s.
Apparently, I picked the wrong split. And as we watched the rich old white people sip their martinis by the fireplace it dawned on us… we are in the wrong hotel.
The next thing I know we are slinking out, like gypsies, and asking the valet if we can have our dirty minivan with the Florida licenses plates back. Oh- and could you help us find the other hotel. Good-bye tranquil music in the wine bar. Good-bye little butler man. Good-bye roaring fire and really expensive bed linens. Good-bye electricity.
This story ends by us trying to eat at McDonald’s only to find that it is closed because of weather. And look people, if McDonald’s is closed, you’re in trouble.
We made it to the other hotel only to find it sitting in pitch-black. No electricity. We called other hotels in town. They had no electricity. We sat in the minivan (no- Annie was not with us, thank God) and watched the gas go down and wondered, “now what?” The guys decided it would be best to drive down the mountain during the blizzard in the dark… yeah… that is what every intelligent group sporting a minivan with limited mountain driving, snow driving skills would decide to do in a blizzard. I wanted to call their mothers. Moms can call you ‘idiot’ and ‘stupid’ and get away with it. But I just had to reinforce my seat belt and wait to die with the majority vote.
By the end of the night we had been stuck and stranded; dodged at least ten jack knifed eighteen wheelers; drove through two cities with no power and two more cities with no room in the inn; and eventually I had to take my pants off on the side of the road, squat down into a puddle of snow, and go to the bathroom with no paper to use at the end.
Turns out, when it is like 11 degrees, you don’t need paper. It dries pretty fast. Freeze dry.
We spent Christmas week at my parent’s house in Albuquerque. Short version? We ate at a place called The Range Café. They are known for their famous cinnamon rolls. But they came out on a plate of butter that added volume to my hips simply by sitting too close. Before I could eat it, the bread sopped up the butter and I had a spongy yellow thing on my plate.
No thank you.
I’m not the calorie-counting type girl. I want my fat and have a fierce addiction to all things baked or smothered with guacamole and queso. But a plate of butter just looks bad. So I loaded up on their tortillas, which were to die for, and ate my lard in a more respectable manner.
Rewind. As the five of us (mom, dad, Annie, Ryan, yours truly) found our table and began to look at the menus an older couple who had been eyeballing us came by and said, “Oh how sweet. You’re using menus! You must be new in town.”
As if Albuquerque were a small town where everyone still knows everyone and they can all sniff out the outsiders. They proceeded to ask where we were from, what we were doing in town, and asked if we would like menu suggestions.
I wanted to hire this lady to bring me around town. Introduce me to Joe the postman and Gill the guy at the coffee shop and help me find the place with the hottest green chili enchiladas.
It got me thinking… I should be a hometown tour guide. You can hire me for the day and I will help you find the best bar-b-que, Tex-Mex, and show you where to stand if you want to peek in on Cowboys practice. This could be lucrative.
The week, well the short version, funneled through a haze of grandchild starved grandparents and lots of food. Oh- and one of my favorite things- a knock and run cookie dropping at the front door. I thought it was so sweet that someone from my parent’s new home would secretly drop cookies off for them, but when I opened the card; I found they were for me! From ‘secret’ fans! Secret fans? That’s the coolest thing ever! Secret fans who bring out cookies and chocolates and candies and then run so you don’t even have to make small talk and be polite but you can just go back into your blankets and Christmas tree and eat your worries and joys away???
I decided right then and there… I like these people. I can do Albuquerque.
Christmas Eve Day
We say good-bye to mom and dad, who prefer to only function in the role as grandma and grandpa these days, and hop onto the flight back to Dallas. The flight leaves an hour and a half behind schedule. So in the meant time, I volunteer to hold an American flag with the group of patriots who have formed a flag tunnel for the returning service men to walk through. Ryan says I am a dork. I hold my flag straight up and down like they tell me to with a serious face and say “welcome home” and cry with all the families who are getting someone back for Christmas.
It’s almost time to board. I buy a caramel apple from my favorite little Santa Fe candy store, Senor Murphy’s. We get on the plane ready to come home. The flight lasts two hours longer than it was supposed to. We circled over Dallas until I felt dizzy.
And now for the very abridged version: we land. It is snowing. The wind is blowing 30 mph and it is freezing. We hear the “winter storm warning” on the radio station, but we know that Ryan’s parents are waiting for us an hour away all by themselves on Christmas eve. We go home, take turns running in the house to switch out clothes and grab presents, we let Annie sleep, we start the drive from Dallas to Ft. Worth.
Remember Asheville? Ok, multiply it. But only because Texans really suck at driving in snow and ice. We get to the final major interchange before the highways merge and well…
Let’s stop right there.
Considering our bad luck this year: stolen van, trailer, and all of our band gear, head on collision with a tree that totaled the van, cancelled shows, shingles, blown out backs, sprained ankle on stage that leaves me on crutches for weeks, gout, three snow storms in a week… well… you know the ending.
Highway is closed. Access roads are war zones. And the one side road that all of us idiots decide to try and conquer is a country farm road that literally looks like it’s been hit with a hail storm of cars. Cars stranded everywhere. Annie is crying. We have been traveling for over ten hours now. And we are slipping all over the place. There is no way to get to the in-laws but there is no way to go home either. We’re stuck.
We’re going to spend Annie’s first Christmas in a motel.
And I asked myself the question I have asked all year… what kind of mother am I? My kid’s first Christmas morning is gonna be in a motel?
But then we saw a young guy waving his hands and running towards us. He’s out of breath and visibly nervous.
“Thanks for stopping I’ve been waiving down people and nobody will stop. Can you please take my girlfriend and our two-week-old daughter with you? They are in the car, we’re stuck, almost out of gas so we have the heater off and they’re freezing.”
So baby April and baby Anniston snuggled in the backseat together and I tried to feed both of them. Both crying, tired little babies.
We tried to get the mom and her baby home, less than a mile up the street, and simply couldn’t do it. We turned around and met back with the young guy and told him to hop in and we could all go to the motel together. He said, “Thanks but we only have five dollars. Thanks for trying to help. We’ll just stick it out.”
Stick it out till what? Till when? No way. Out of the question. He jumped in and sat in the front seat on his girlfriends lap. They reeked of cigarette smoke. The car was dark and packed and tense (we were still trying to get unstuck from the u-turn) and I thought…
Well this is nice and messy.
The mom said, “We’ve never met people like you. You don’t even know us.”
My response, “Anybody would do this for you. We don’t really have the money either, but we know a lot of people who do. And we trust that God will provide it for both of us. Plus that little baby girl of yours needs a lovely bed for her first Christmas Eve!”
The dad helped us unload the babies and luggage and I loaded them down with cookies that were meant for the family (but it was the only gift I had, and you have to give a gift J). Before we checked out of the hotel, someone who had been following my mother-in-law’s facebook telling about our travel journey had called and paid for both rooms. Thank you. You know who you are.
And that’s where we spent Christmas morning in all its messy glory.
It is messy. It was messy. It’s going to be messy. But it’s exactly where we are ALL called to be. We are not saints because we do what God has asked us, required of us, and impassioned us to do… we are just people who are trying to live the way Jesus did. In the mess.
And sometimes that means you are stuck in a snowstorm or two.