24:00 Dec. 23. Joseph pulled into the truck stop. It was dark and he could hear the engines and generators humming as most of the truckers had bedded down for the night. He had just delivered his load and had one more to pickup before he could go home to his family. He would spend his required 10-hour break here, and pick up the load and stop home for Christmas en route. His wife, Sharon, and the children were 500 miles away. He figured he could make it by 20:00 if the weather cooperated and the snowplows got their job done. If he made it, he would be home in time for dinner with the family before the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve. He put on his stocking hat, climbed down from the truck, and bracing against the cold, walked through the falling snow into the diner.
As he walked in, he heard, “Plowing the snow, Joseph?” He looked around, and there was Frank, an old trucker he ran with years ago. Frank was round with white hair and a beard. He was sitting in a booth, wearing a Santa hat and looked just like Old Saint Nick. He was presiding over a fresh plate of sausage and biscuits. “Why, you old trucker,” Joseph exclaimed. “What are you doing out on a night like this?” “Delivering presents to the good little boys and girls,” Frank retorted. “Have you been good this year? Sit down and tell Santa.” Joseph smiled and sat down at the other end of the booth. “What will you be having?” asked the waitress who seemed to appear from nowhere. Joseph looked up with a twinkle in his eye. “Two, looking up at me, with bacon,” he replied. “What’s your desto?” Frank asked. “This is my lucky year,” Joseph replied with a grin, “It looks like while you are out riding your sleigh, I get to spend Christmas at the casa.” “Well, amigo, tomorrow, I’ll cover your back door on your magic mile so you don’t get any Christmas cards from Smokey Bear.”
8:00 Christmas Eve. Sharon put the finishing touches on a homemade ginger bread house. She had finished cleaning and decorating the house, while little Sarah and Jimmy were putting the finishing touches on the tree. They were hanging candy canes on the tree, using the utmost willpower not to sneak a couple into their pockets, under Sharon’s watchful eye. “Will Daddy be home for Christmas this year?” asked Jimmy with a hopeful look on his face. “Yes,” replied Sharon, “He’s supposed to be home at 8 o’clock tonight. I hope this weather doesn’t hold him up.” “Why is it so hard for Daddy to make it home for Christmas?” Sarah asked. “Well, dear,” Sharon replied, “Christmas is the biggest shopping season of the year, so it is the busiest time for truckers. Truckers, like your Daddy, have to bring all the stuff to the stores so people can buy them for Christmas.” “I thought Santa brought the presents,” Sarah pouted. “Well, dear, Santa does bring the presents, but people buy presents for each other, too. It is the season of giving.”
18:00 Christmas Eve. Joseph was peering through the driving snow focused on the vanishing painted lines on the side of the road. He was tired, but thought he could make it home for dinner just in time at 20:00. It would be hard to get the excited children to bed tonight. He hadn’t made it back for Christmas in two years, so they normally had to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. He hated how hard it was on the kids but trucker families find a way to adjust to the demanding lifestyle on the road. Sharon normally let them open half their presents on Christmas and would send him pictures. The other half would wait until he got home. As he strained to see through the driving snow, it looked like there were some taillights up ahead in a place they shouldn’t be.
18:15 Christmas Eve. Her airbags deployed suddenly. After a few minutes, Mary shook off the shock and looked around. She looked through her windshield and all she saw was white. The only light in her car came from passing cars out the rear window. The moisture between her legs worried her. It seemed her water had broken. The engine was still running so she put the car in reverse, but there was no movement. All she heard was the sound of the tires spinning uselessly in the snow. She tried to open both doors, but they were held in by the snow pack. As the gravity of her situation sank in, she felt helpless and all alone. She started crying.
18:20 Christmas Eve. “Breaker, breaker, Santa. You got your ears on?” Joseph said to his CB as he started to slow the rig. “Coming in loud and proud” replied Frank. “Looks like a four wheeler is downed in a snow bank up ahead,” Joseph warned, “It dropped off the shoulder.” “Flaps up,” Frank replied, “Got my eyeballs on it.”
18:30 Christmas Eve. Mary’s sobbing was interrupted by the sound of loud engines and bright lights coming through the rear window. Frank jumped down from his cab and grabbed his fire extinguisher, while Joseph grabbed a tool from his truck. The snow came up to Joseph’s knees as they waded quickly down the embankment. Mary was startled into reality by a loud crash as the rear window shattered. She looked back, and to her surprise, the face she saw through her blurry tears looked just like Santa.
Joseph, being thin, crawled through the opening. “Are you ok?” he asked as he tried to see her in the dark. “Yes, I think I’m ok,’ Mary sobbed, “But I’m stuck and I think I’m having a baby!” Joseph looked back at Frank. “Let’s get her in the truck, now!” yelled Frank. They worked her carefully out of the crippled car, up the snow bank and into the bunk in the back of Joseph’s truck. Joseph took over. “Breathe,” he said to Mary. “Everything will be ok, “he said soothingly as Frank called 911.
20:00 Christmas Eve. “Where’s Daddy?” Jimmy asked as Sarah stared at Sharon. “He should be home soon,” Sharon replied. “I imagine this snow storm is making him late. Let’s go ahead and have dinner. I’m sure he’ll be home soon.” Sharon stared out the front window looking for lights down the road.
22:00 Christmas Eve. “Well, well” said the ICU nurse. I’ve heard that you truckers deliver, but I’ve never seen Santa and his sidekick deliver a beautiful baby boy on Christmas Eve!” “I can’t thank you enough,” said Mary in a weak voice. “You are my heroes!” “Would y’all like some coffee and a bed to rest in?” asked the nurse. “No, thanks. But you are kind. We have to be movin’ on down the road,” Joseph replied.“Ho, ho, ho,” Frank said grinning at Joseph, “What a Christmas gift! Well, guess there isn’t anything an old trucker can’t do! We have to go now and deliver the other presents to the good little boys and girls! Merry Christmas, all!” Quietly, Joseph was thinking about his family at home as he climbed back into his rig and fired it up. Back in the ICU, Mary realized that she didn’t even know the names of the old truckers.
2:00 Christmas Day. Sharon was awakened by the roar of the engine as the lights came through the windows and lit up the room. Joseph opened the door and looked exhausted. “How was the drive?” asked Sharon, “Did something go wrong?” The children came running down the stairs yelling, “Daddy!” as they jumped into his arms. “Sorry, I’m late,” said Joseph. As Frank appeared behind him, the children’s eyes grew wide. “Santa?” little Sarah asked. “Sharon, I asked a friend to spend the night. I have a long Christmas story to tell you, but we’re too tired now. We can talk about it in the morning.” “Come on in and I’ll fix something for you two to eat.” Sharon said. “Milk and cookies for me,” Frank replied with a laugh. Later the kids could hardly sleep thinking that Santa was spending the night. Sharon curled up next to Joseph, and in no time at all he was snoring.
8:00 Christmas Day. The sleepy night dispatcher was watching his computer screen back at the terminal when the phone rang. “Hello,” the voice said softly, “This is Mary.” “Yes, how may I help you?” asked the dispatcher. “Can you tell me who drives truck number 4125?” she asked. “Sure, why?” he responded. “I need to find out his name, so I know what to name my baby,” she responded. After she told her story, she said, “Merry Christmas” and hung up.
In the background the radio played Christmas tunes in the otherwise solitary terminal.
Choirs will be singing
Please come home for Christmas
Please come home for Christmas
If not for Christmas
Then by New Year’s Night
The dispatcher sat back in his chair and to no one said out loud, “Well, what do you know? A Christmas miracle!”
Copyright, Tom Kretsinger, Jr. 2011