Suspended by my seatbelt, I stared through the windshield at a snowy wall of white. The ditch was deeper than his car, now grounded on its grill, barely balanced by two tiny bushes that unbelievably broke our impact instead of surrendering us to slam headlong into the frozen fathoms below. This was not a good start to the wedding week.
If I had known how crazy Christmas could be, I never would have gotten married in December.
Just days before “I do”s we went careening off an icy rural road, crashing in the middle of the night.
It was after a Christmas party. A party at my professor’s place. A party I had been late to the previous year because I had found myself unexpectedly pushing my car without help…up a hill…in heels. A feat, to this day, we still cannot comprehend. I guess if you’re mad enough in the moment, you can do just about anything.
But in this particular moment, I was more marveled than mad. And grateful beyond measure because miraculously, we had managed to make it.
Just moments before, there had been a curve, that we didn’t take. Instead, the ice ensured we just journeyed onward under our own inertia right into the ravine. I remember watching in what seemed like slow motion as a mailbox came flying at my face and then thankfully thwacked off the glass. It had been the mailbox of the first house we approached after our accident, in the dead of winter, where no one was home.
This was of course back before smart or even stupid phones, so we had to walk another mile through the moonlit arctic intensity in our party clothes…and the party was now definitely over.
Weathering the winding road and whipping winds, we wandered on to the next drifted over driveway. Trudging on together.
Finally a farm had one little light glowing in the darkness. We knocked just after midnight and in their mercy they actually answered! Not only the door but our prayers! They welcomed and warmed us. Bundled us in blankets and sat us before space heaters until help finally arrived around three in the morning. The tow truck got lost on those outlying lanes trying to locate us.
But we made it through the mayhem and emerged a couple brought closer by calamity. Even though, over what remained of that week, the chaos continued. I contracted walking pneumonia from the extra exposure, took my college finals, did my Christmas shopping and got married.
And we still are. Happily. Though in the years to come, there has seldom been a sedate anniversary.
The celebrations have been spent sleeping in airports, putting on pageants, attending office parties, and wishing one another well from a distance because sometimes that’s just what December demands. But once it was even spent…
With his parent’s house completely engulfed in flames while our wedding album sat smoldering on the kitchen table.
And his parents, being the wonderful Midwesterners that they were, didn’t call to tell us that their house burned down that day…because they didn’t want to ruin our anniversary!
But that album somehow survived, a little singed and smoke stained having gone through the fire. Kind of like us, so we left it that way.
Because over the years, like most married folk, we have from time to time found ourselves a little road weary. Somehow missing those curves that we never saw coming and continuing on under our own inertia only to wind up in a ditch. Then, climbing our way out and wandering on, weathering whatever life whips our way. At times trudging, but always together.
And year after year, I reflect on all I didn’t know about the craziness yet to come, from Christmases and all other matter of life’s little lessons, and that decision to say, “I do”, despite it being December. And I find myself far more marveled than maddened. And grateful beyond measure because miraculously, we managed to make it.
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