A CHRISTMAS EVE STORY
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Snow like this Tim and Sarah had never seen. It came down in soft white flakes that made corn flakes look small. It settled on the ground making everything look white and pure - paradise for them - just for the opportunity to play in it.
This year Tim took special pleasure in the snow outside. It reminded him of when he used to live in Tuktyuktuk except there the snow was hard and crystaline, driven into hard packs that covered the ground most of the year. But he took even a more special pleasure in it because the snow was his little kingdom. He used to regard his bedroom as his own place - he could make a mess of it, he could enjoy it any way he wanted - but a few months ago that all changed. One day mom came into the room and started eyeing the mess in a strange way - not just the look of "Time to clean this up isn't it!" - now it was a look that said - "How are we going to totally reorganize this room?" Tim had seen the look in the past. It usually meant that his room and closets were going to get cleaned out, half of his treasures tossed out, and for weeks after he would spend time wondering what happened to all his toys. But this time was even worse. Mom wanted a whole corner cleared, it seemed like half of his bedroom cleaned out! When she had finished that, she hauled in that old crib from the attic. That's when Tim knew his private life was destroyed Mom was going to have another baby and the baby was going to share his room!
Tim sure did complain. Why did he have to share his room with a little crybaby? How was he going to get his sleep? (which for the sake of arguement had become very important to him). Why couldn't the baby sleep in Sarah's room - at least she liked babies! The arguements went on for months. Tim was not ready to share his space with somebody else, specially not a baby!
For Tim and Sarah, this had been a wonderful fall outside. The snow on the ground was deep, their yard on the north shores of lake Ontario had become a play ground with forts and towers and ammo and secret tunnels. And now it was the day before Christmas and the weatherman said "More snow is on the way, infact we the expected high winds! Enviornment Canada is issuing a Blizzard Warning for the north Shore of Lake Ontario. Wind chills could reach 1800 - that's cooold - be careful out there!" It seemed this year, people started to believe him.
This Christmas Eve was a church day. The whole family had been to church in the morning. Tim and Sarah were present starved! That's what happens when children have to stare at packaged presents for days without having permission to see what they are going to get. The good dinner mom cooked seemed tasteless, even though it included their favorite foods and desert. And it was so hard to keep their mind on devotions after the meal. All they wanted was "Presentssss."
Finally when the dishes were done, with the wind blowing and howling outside whipping the fresh falling snow, their family finally sat down in the family room by the tree. Dad started handing out the presents from under the tree, one by one. He did it in a very particular order. He knew what they contained and he certainly did not want any presents to be anti climactic, so he started with the smallest and worked toward the bigger ones.
Sarah had a new pair of gloves and an Indian bead craft set. Tim had new winter socks and a sling shot. Mom got her earrings from Sarah and a wood cutting block that Tim made at school. Dad get a new key chain that beeped back when he clapped (he was always losing his keys), and a mug that said Harold on one side and "World's Greatest Dad" on the other.
Mom mentioned that she had to go to the washroom.
"Time for a Break" proclaimed Dad. Let's have a cup of coffee, clean up a little and then we will get to the last round.
Tim and Sarah groaned. But they knew that recently, Mom had to go to the washroom often. So they agreed and started cleaning up. Dad made a coffee for himself and Mom, he put Egg Nog in it to sweeten it a little. Tim and Sarah got Egg Nog too - "Ummm!". and what a mustache it made.
Mom was gone for a while . Finally she came back, she looked a little pale. She said "Harold - its time!"
Dad looked at Mom for a few meaningful seconds and said - "OK dear - Let's just spend a few more minutes on these presents, and then we will get going..."
"Harold - its time NOW!" There was a sense of urgency and self control in Mom's voice that let Tim and Sarah know that something was up. They knew that Mom was due to have the baby any day - but it was always worthwhile to complain a little.
"Awe Mom, can't it wait just a little longer?" Tim was good at the complaint. He'd gotten a lot of mileage out of it before.
Dad got the message. Coffee was forgotten. Even presents were forgotten!
"Put on your snow pants, boots and coats, everyone! Mom, I'll get your suitcase, you just get ready. We are going now!" Complaints went unanswered. Tim was frustrated - all because of this stupid baby!
The wind stung fresh snow against their faces as they worked their way to the mini van. In their distraction, they failed to notice how the weather had become colder, and darker. The Blizzard was blowing with all its might.
They piled in, suticases and all. Tim and Sarah would be spending their next few days at the home of friends from church. Dad would drive them there and then head on to the hospital with Mom.
The snow was getting deep between the trees on the driveway . It was when they got out into the open areas that they discovered how bad the blizzard had already become. Drifts crossed over the road, some were only a few inches deep - but it wasn't long before dad had to take runs at the drifts with the Mini Van just to make sure he got through them. Their trip toward the town of Trenton started out well but with each passing minute, it got worse. The blowing snow wipped across the winshield freezing to the wipers, the drifts got deeper, the blinding snow made the road more invisible.
Mom was just mentioning that something called "contractions" were getting worse when the back of the mini van seemed to drift to the right and Dad started spinning the sterring wheel madly, trying to regain control. But now the Snow had taken control of the little van - they seemed to float through it - until finally they came to a stop at a steep angle. The front of the van was pointed up. It felt to Tim and Sarah like they were going up a very steep hill, but now when Dad revved the Engine, there was no movement.
"Oh Dear, oh dear, oh dear this hurts." Mom's voice was shaking as she held her stomach.
"Breath dear, breath, you know the routine!" Sarah could even recognize the stress in Dad's voice. He never seemed to be on edge like he was right now.
Dad turned to Tim and Sarah. "You all right?"
Both nodded. They had come to a slow confusing stop. Snow was piled high on the right side of the Van. Dad opened his door as the wind wistled and snow fluffed in like an exploding feather pillow. "I'm going to go see if I can find some help."
"Be Careful Harold!" There was desperation in Mom's voice.
"I'll be back in 5 minutes!"
About 30 seconds after Dad's door closed behind him, Tim heard mom groan, and pant, and groan again. Tim reached forward and up. "Mom what's wrong?" But she didn't answer - now she was puffing, panting and groaning. "Mom what's wrong?!"
It took a long time for her to answer!
"The baby is coming Tim. It's coming soon. I don't think we are going to make it to hospital. You may have to help me..."
And then it came again. She tensed and groaned and started puffing. No matter how many questions Tim and Sarah asked, she didn't answer, she was focused on something else. Mom cried out from a sharp stab of pain. Sarah was already crying. Tim was simply overwhelmed. He grabbed his mother's hand and she in turn crushed his, not realizing how hard she was squeezing it.
"What should I do?" Tim asked.
Mom didn't answer. She simply puffed, and puffed. And then it seemed to pass again.
"I don't know Tim, I don't know what you can do."
Dad's door opened. In popped Dad's head, snow up to his waist. Another voice was behind him.
"How are you dear?"
"Not good - its coming!"
"There's a house just past the fence over there. With the help of this man, we can make it there. I've called 911, but it will be a while before they are here in this weather. Come crawl accross, come out my door and we'll get there."
Tim and Sarah followed. Dad told Tim to watch Sarah and help her. She sank into the deep snow with every step. Dad and the elderly gentleman helped Mom. A few feet from the Van they stopped, Mom groaned, this time she was crying. They waited, helpless.
When it passed, this time they hurried. Tim and Sarah had difficulty keeping up with them through the snow. Finally they made it to the door where someone, Sarah thought she must be a Grandma, opened the door and ushered them all in.
Tim and Sarah were ushered to a warm living room. Mom and Dad, and the elderly women disappeared to another room. Tim and Sarah could hear Mom groaning, but the flurly of activity was all they needed to know. Now was time to stay out of the way. And they did.
And then they heard it! There was a new little voice crying in the other room, the rush seemed to be over. Dad came out of the room with a little baby in his arms, still wimpering, but pink and bloody and beautiful and on top of that, a boy.
The events of the evening were more than any of them had asked for - for a Christmas Eve. After the Ambulance made it there to take mom and their new baby brother to the hospital, Tim and Sarah stayed there the night. They drank hot chocolate and told the elderly couple what had happened. They felt welcomed, at home with this grandma and grandpa until the next day - Christmas day, when their friends picked them up for their sleep over.
Tim and Sarah, especially Tim, learned something that day, something about Christmas. A Grandma and a Grandpa on that day had room for them when they were in need. They were willing to give to them warmth, and give to their Mom and Dad all the help that they needed during the birth of thier baby brother. And Mom had gone through all that painful work to have this baby brother. As Tim thought about it all, he thought to himself:
"Maybe I should make a little more room in my heart for this little baby brother."
At church that day, they also learned something about another birth, the birth of another baby boy many years earlier. His Mom, Mary, didn't make it to the hospital either - he was born in a manger. God went through an awful lot of trouble to send him, and the key question of Christmas is this: "Will Jesus find room to be born and live in our hearts?"