[This article first appeared here.]
I placed the gifts in the trunk, strapped two wiggly children into their car seats, and set the egg nog and muffins on the front seat, and as I rolled down the driveway, I hit play on the CD player. Bing Crosby’s low voice crooned:
When I’m feeling blue, when I’m feeling low,
I start to think about the happiest man I know.
Now he doesn’t mind the snow, he doesn’t mind the rain,
But all December you will hear him at your window pane,
Singing again and again and again and again and again:
The music filled the cabin as we weaved through the empty streets of our subdivision and out onto the abandoned roads. The Kentucky sky, hovering low, threatened rain. As we joined the light highway traffic, the clouds spat the first drops. Split, splat. The intermittent raindrops reached a crescendo, drumming louder as we exited the highway and veered toward the airport. Ker-plunk, ker-plunk. Then the car pulled under an overhang of the terminal, and the music boomed from the speakers again:
I’ll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
The kids and I scanned the crowd, eager to spot our favorite pilot. “There he is!” one yelled. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” screeched the other.
Daddy strolled toward us, without any bags, and opened the door. He moved breakfast to his lap and smiled into the backseat. “Merry Christmas.” Then, with a softer, sadder voice, he looked at me. “I only have an hour.”
The car entered the rain again and circled the airport. My husband reached over and found his favorite Christmas song:
Let me tell you a tale that is often told
In the great Celestial Hall
All about an angel only four years old
The littlest angel of all.
Then we found shelter from the rain in a multi-leveled parking garage. There, on Christmas morning in 2006, our family shared Christmas together.
In my 39 years, I have forgotten many Christmases, like the ones by a tree in a warm cozy home, but as for my family, we will never forget the one we shared in the parking garage of the Cincinnati airport.
Merry Christmas—wherever you are, I hope it’s happy!