Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas with Family (short story) by Leanne Dyck

This short story is about a year when I was forced to abandon cherished family Christmas traditions. 

photo by ldyck

Christmas with Family

November wasn't even over and already the rush had begun in my neighbourhood mall. I navigated around shoppers as holiday tunes played. Deck the halls with lots of presents. Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la. Now's the time to be shopping. Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

Christmas memories spent with my family filled my mind. Aunts, uncles, cousins—we’d all gathered around a Christmas tree year after year for decades. But this year my husband, Byron, and I had moved from Manitoba to British Columbia.

I found Byron in the food court—sipping coffee and flipping through a magazine. “I want us to fly home to Manitoba for Christmas,” I told him.

Freezing cold. Snow. No, thanks,” he told me.

But we have to be with family for Christmas,” I explained but he refused to budge. I worried about the problem all the way back to our apartment.

Then I remembered that I had a cousin on one of the tiny islands not that far from the mainland. I phoned Susan.

Being a good cousin, she invited Byron and me to spend the holidays with her on Salt Spring Island. Problem solved.

But, weeks later, both Byron and I heard the weatherman’s prediction that snow would make travelling during Christmas hazardous.

“I think we should postpone our trip to Salt Spring,” Bryon told me. “Our sports car isn’t equipped for driving up snow-covered hills. We can always visit Susan later when the weather’s better.”

But he was completely missing the point. “We need to be with family for Christmas,” I reminded him.

And he promised me that we would try.

The day of our ferry trip, I woke before Byron, crept over to the window and pushed back the curtains. A light dusting of snow covered the ground. Large, fluffy snowflakes continued to fall. 

Byron rolled over and faced me. “How's it look?”

I pulled the curtains together. “Fine. Just fine.”

He crawled out of bed and pushed back the curtains. “I think we should phone Susan and cancel.”

“No, we can't. It’ll ease up. I know it will.”

Grumbling, Byron loaded our luggage into our car and drove us to the ferry.

A short line of trucks led to the ticket booth. The BC Ferry worker slid back the window. “Are you sure you—“

“Yes, we're sure,” I told him.

Another BC Ferry worker directed us onto the ferry, but not before saying, “Are you sure you

I cut him off too.

A routine two-hour trip ended up taking eight hours as we were diverted and re-diverted. But eventually, we docked at Salt Spring Island.

“The ferry was only half the battle.” Byron told me. “The other half is that steep hill.”

But not easily defeated, he tried to conquer the hill. He cranked his neck to peer out the side window and turned the steering wheel. We started to slide. He cranked his neck the other way to peer out that window. We began to fishtail, he turned the steering wheel and kept us on the road, barely.

Byron yanked the gear shift into park and glared at me. “You got any more brilliant ideas?” He asked after driving backwards over that three-mile steep, curving hill. “We could be safe and warm in our apartment. But no you had to drag us all the way out here. And now… And now… It’s pitch black. We’re stuck in a blizzard. And we don’t know anyone who can help us. Happy?”

No, I wasn't happy. I'd gotten us into this mess; I had to get us out. I phoned Susan.

“I’d go and get you myself but my Toyota doesn’t like snow. I’m afraid I’d only end up stranded too. Try a tow truck or a taxi?” She gave me the numbers. The tow truck driver’s voice mail message wished me a Merry Christmas. The taxi driver laughed in my ear. 

Desperate, I phoned Susan again.

“Hitchhike,” she said.


“Ask for a ride. Someone will help you.”

She wanted me to ask a complete stranger for help. Didn’t she realize how dangerous that was? Byron and I would be abducted or worse.

But it was cold and getting colder. I had to do something.

I looked across the road to the grocery store and saw three large trucks with snow tires.

“I’ll be right back. I’m going to ask for a ride.”

“What? You can’t. We don’t know any—“

I closed the door on the rest of his sentence.

Sliding from one patch of ice to the next, I made it to the grocery store. Large sleigh bells jiggled as I opened the door. I noticed a woman with a teenager and figured that she had to be a mother. 

Mustering up all the courage I could find and hoping I was trusting the right person, I asked for help. And she... She drove up the hill like it was flat; plowed through the snow like she was driving a tank. She drove us right to my cousin's door. And she saved my Christmas.


Who are the people in your life who would drive backwards on a 

steep, curving hill to fulfill your dream?

Does it matter that your life may not resemble the image on the holiday greeting card?

What does your happy life look like? How can you learn to cherish it?

What is one thing you could do to bring happiness into your life--offer a smile, a kind word, a hand, a hug.

Next Sunday Evening

2019:  Your Favourites
Your favourite short stories and book reviews from 2019