Ah, the best laid plans of reindeer and men.
For the first time since I can remember, I actually had plans on going home for Christmas. It’s been at least seven years since I’d been “home” for the holidays and likely closer to 10 years as work and miles have kept me glued to the place where I lived, instead of being able to race to the true home of where I grew up.
This year, everything was lined up for a “surprise” visit home. I took time off from work. I even had the Christmas bow picked out that I was going to wear on my head when I walked into my family home and shocked my mother with the ultimate Christmas gift — her son coming home unannounced.
Then Mother Nature got in the way. And we all know what a bitch she can be.
First was the ice storm that slammed into Maine, coating everything like an ice rink and leaving thousands upon thousands without power. Even as I was basking in 50 degree rainy weather here in Connecticut, my native state of Maine was getting hit pretty hard. It might not have been as dire as the 1998 Ice Storm, but it was bad enough to change people’s holiday weekends.
As of Monday night, when I spoke to mother, under the guise that I was concerned about her in such treacherous conditions, all systems were still go. Things were icy, but she still had power and my plan was still in place. The long range weather forecast showed the ice would be melting and there would be no travel concerns weather-wise. The long-term forecast showed nothing.
Twenty-four hours later, though, things changed.
First came a voice mail left from my mother. Three hours after we spoke on the phone on Monday, power went out in her house. She learned from her local power company that it likely wouldn’t return until the Friday after Christmas. The entire family was packing up and headed to my sister’s house in Bangor for the holiday.
Crashing Christmas at your childhood home is one thing. There is plenty of room for unexpected visitors, even if my old bedroom had been turned into a computer room.
Showing up at your sister’s two-bedroom apartment with the rest of the family and who knows who else was another story. I could have shelled out for a hotel room and still made the trip, but not wanting to disrupt somebody else’s Christmas plans I made the decision to postpone the trip an extra day. I would drive up on Thursday and like a Fed Ex/UPS package, I’d be a day late but my surprise factor was still there.
Thursday morning came and as I drank my morning coffee I took an online look at my former hometown newspaper.
The headline made my heart sink: “Up To Six Inches of Snow Expected”
Where there is ice there is snow, even if it’s spread apart by nearly a week. Where was no power, there would be plenty of powder.
From here to Bangor is a 382-mile journey. Six hours and 35 minutes if you’re going the speed limit.
Driving into a six-inch snowstorm? That makes the trip from here to eternity.
Erring on the side of caution, I scrapped the whole idea.
I know I need to get home again. I want to go home again. For my mom.
When I last saw her, this past summer, it came after a surprise visit when she was in Portland, Maine. As I left that day, she started to cry and it left me with an unsettled feeling that she might have been wondering if that was the last time she was ever going to see me. I wasn’t about to let happen. I couldn’t let that happen.
Plus, there are other people I want to see, too. Old friends, lost, then found again — at least if they want to see me.
The jury is still out on that one I suppose.
So Merry Christmas, Mom. A day late and far too many miles short. I’m sorry about that.
And to my friends, I promise I’ll make it home someday. At least I hope I do.