The Christmas She Wanted
The snow was falling and Mr. Rush had the windshield wipers on. The heat in the van had been running since the family had left early that morning.
“It sure is snowing,” Mrs. Rush remarked. “I hope it doesn’t keep up.”
There was no answer from the back seats and after a quick glance back, Mrs. Rush looked over at her husband. “I think, Oliver, we could safely mention what their Christmas presents were going to be this year and no one would even know.”
“Probably,” Oliver replied dryly, looking in the rearview mirror and seeing each one of his four kids utterly absorbed in an electronic device. He sighed. “I’m glad we never had those DVD players installed. At least it’s quiet.”
Shifting to a more comfortable position, Diana turned and eyed her children. There hadn’t been any fussing or complaining except when they had driven through dead spots and no signal could be reached. But somehow it just didn’t seem right. She thought back to when she was younger and had taken long, family road trips. “We certainly didn’t have iPhones to keep us occupied.”
“What’s that, Dear?”
Mrs. Rush shook her head. “Nothing. I was just wishing we could do something as a family once again.”
Without taking his eyes off the highway, Oliver raised his eyebrows questioningly. “Aren’t we taking a family trip?”
“Well, it’s a trip, but I don’t think I’d call it a ‘family’ one. Even after we reach your parents’ house, the problem will just be expanded. The cousins will all have their eyes on screens; they’ll text each other instead of talking, and the only ‘activity’ the boys will want to do is play video games.” She gave a sigh. “You know, I wish we could have a real Christmas for a change. I wish the iPhones and iPads and TVs and computers would all stop working and we could sit and really talk, play real games; I wish Dixie and I could bake in the kitchen together using a real cookbook and . . . Oh, I guess I’m just wishing for the impossible.” The sigh she gave was deep and long. “Why did we ever buy into these gadgets anyway, Oliver?”
“I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Mr. Rush clicked the wipers to a faster pace and changed the subject. “There should be plenty of snow at Mom and Dad’s. We’ll have a white Christmas this year, Hon.”
The Rush family had moved earlier that year, and this was the first trip back to see Oliver’s family. At Thanksgiving the family had flown to visit Diana’s family in southern Florida, but another plane trip so soon was too expensive for the family purse. Everyone had agreed that a road trip wouldn’t be an unbearable price to pay for a week at Grandma’s and time with all their relatives. It hadn’t been snowing when they left, but the further east they had driven, the more snow they had encountered.
“We’ll have to stop for gas at the next town,” Mr. Rush remarked, noticing the low gas gauge.
“Hey, Dad, after we get gas, can I drive?” Dixie had just gotten her license the month before and was eager to be in the driver’s seat.
“We’ll see how hard it’s snowing, Dix,” was all the promise her dad would make. Lowering his voice he remarked to his wife, “It takes the right word to bring them up for air.”
“Do you think if I mentioned ice cream—“
“Are we going to get ice cream, Mom?” twelve-year-old Brad asked eagerly.
“I want a double dip cone with mint chocolate chip and lime sherbet,” Lester put in. He was the youngest member of the family and had opinions and ideas that only a nine-year-old could have.
“Hey, are we getting ice cream?” inquired Shawn from the backseat. “Man, it’s snowing. Hey, what’s so funny, Mom?”
A merry peal of laughter came from the front passenger seat and a hearty chuckle echoed from Dad. “I told you it took the right words. Now you have to decide about the ice cream.”
Still laughing, Mrs. Rush half turned in her seat. “Do you all really want ice cream in this weather?”
“Actually,” Dixie said, “I’d rather have something hot from Starbucks. Just looking at this snow makes me cold.”
“Can we get ice cream, Mom?” Lester begged.
“Well,” Mrs. Rush hesitated. “Let’s see if there’s any place around when we get gas. With all this snow we can’t drive as fast, so our stops will have to be shorter if we want to reach Grandma’s before tomorrow.”
The younger two boys took that as a promise of the desired treat. “All right!”
Shawn glanced over at his sister. He was two years younger than she was, though he was nearly a head taller. “How long’s it been snowing?”
Dixie shrugged. “I don’t know.”
For a few minutes the four children were interested in the snow falling outside their windows. It was coming down steadily and no grass was to be seen along the sides of the roads. Every tree had a layer of white on each branch. There was some speculation about how much snow would be at Grandma and Grandpa’s and how much they had gotten back at home. A sign for the next town came along.
Suddenly Brad exclaimed “Dad! I see lights up ahead!”
“I see them too!” Lester leaned forward in his seat and peered into the snow. “Maybe it was an accident. You might have to stop, Dad.”
Mr. Rush was already slowing down. The flashing red and blue lights had caught everyone’s attention. “Looks like the road is blocked.”
A groan came from the back seat. “I don’t want to get stuck out here,” Dixie said. “There’s not even a house to be seen.”
The van pulled to a stop and a State Highway patrolman, warmly dressed, stepped over to the driver’s window. “Hello folks. Were you planning on driving farther than the town?”
What do you do when you travel?
Would you rather have ice cream or something hot on a cold, snowy day?