When I was a kid, before everyone had cell phones, we had a family Christmas adventure. Ma didn't like it when Pa took shortcuts - unless we didn't have to be any particular place at any specific time. Still, Pa was bored with the same old trip across the interstate, so when we left the house on Christmas Eve morning, he studied that old yellow map and decided on a shortcut. Ma didn't protest too much, as it was a sunny day and we had plenty of time. We weren't expected until Christmas Morning and no hotel reservations had been made yet. That was how it all started, but boy howdy, that wasn't how it ended.
We started out singing Christmas songs and having a good time, but when the rain moved in and we were on a dirt road that was a short cut on Pa's shortcut, Ma started to protest. Apparently we were past due to meet that highway. Every few miles Pa would say that the highway had to be right around that next curve. Pa's foot got a little heavy on the gas with anticipation and we wound up stuck in the mud. Ma didn't say a thing. She just got out of the car and went around the back to push. She didn't have any luck, and Pa told all three of us kids to get out of the car. That's how we wound up witnessing Ma getting a mud shower and using some words we'd never heard.
Pa decided to walk up to the next farm house and see if someone had a tractor to pull us out. When he returned, he said he'd found no homes. Ma didn't ask, and Pa didn't say, but I figured he didn't find the highway either. It was looking like rain and Pa said he saw a hunter's cabin sitting back off the road, so we grabbed our suitcases and headed that direction. We got there just as it started to rain. No one answered when Pa knocked, but the door was unlocked, so we all went inside.
That was our first stroke of luck - an empty cabin. The second was a well stocked woodpile for the wood stove. Dad sat down and wrote a note to the hunter, explaining our situation and giving his address so the hunter could collect any "damages." Then he hiked back down to the car in the rain to get the crackers and cheese Ma had brought for snacks. That's all we had for supper. Pa figured someone would show up, but Ma reminded him it was Christmas Eve. He figured it would stop raining soon and we would get the car out in the morning.
We slept on the floor next to the stove and woke the next morning to find that it had snowed. In fact, it was still snowing - big flakes! Us kids were excited, but I could tell Ma and Pa were scared. We were hungry and there was no food.
I take pride in the fact that my huge feet saved our family. It turned out that our salvation was at my feet. I tripped over a rug and fell, pulling it with me. In the process, I exposed a trap door that led down to a cellar well stocked with food. Ma said it looked like a summer harvest, but Pa said the real harvest was our Christmas luck.
Pa hiked back down to the car again to get our presents and we spent Christmas there in the hunter's cabin. We were rescued two days later when a farmer came through plowing the road and found our car. We didn't have a Christmas tree or a proper Christmas dinner, but it was one of our favorite Christmas memories.
Now I tell my children that Christmas isn't about the presents we get, but what we harvest from it. They don't get it. I guess we'll have to take a trip.