Christmas is by far one of my favorite times of the year, but as I have gotten older it has been harder and harder to spend any time with my family when it rolls around. This year, I was blessed with opportunity to go home for Christmas! My trip home would be a 2 part trip. First I would go home for 3 days to have Christmas with my father's family and return to Little Rock to take the the last part of my licensing exam to then return back home for a week long stretch. This is all about the first part of the trip.
For weeks, my sister Jamie and I had been counting down the days until we were able to get together for Christmas. I had had a very trying many weeks/months and there is something about hugging your family that helps with all of that. We planned to spend Friday night as a sister's night before doing Christmas on Saturday morning. I had initially planned on arriving mid-evening on Friday, but after realizing my sister would arrive late afternoon, I decided to surprise everyone and leave earlier. At 9 am, I packed up my car with gifts, a weekend bag, and a few on the road snacks. Over the years, I have come not to like fast-food very well and so instead of stopping I always pack snacks instead. It was a beautiful 52 degrees in Little Rock as I left my little apartment in the south towards colder weather. Midwest weather.
I started my trek north daydreaming about arriving to my grandparents. The look on my sweet nieces face as she first saw me and my first hug with my sister. Everyone's surprise of me arriving earlier than planned. With daydreams and my radio blasting, I had a blissful 6 hour drive towards home and this is where the phone calls start. First my mom calling me to let me know a storm was coming in and to be safe. Followed by father telling me the highway coming into our hometown had been closed down due to ice and accidents and to turn around and find a motel for the night. Turn around? Really? I'm 30 minutes from home. I'm determined to make it there. Tonight!
It is hard to argue with anyone who says I'm a bit hard headed. I'd like to call it determined instead. So I continue on, certain I will be able to make it home. This is not my first rodeo. I remember driving home on Christmas Eve one year in a blizzard with 8 inches of snow on the ground, I can handle this. But the further I got north the slower the traffic and the more it was obvious the highway was not only getting unsafe, but likely would not reopen. The pit of my stomach felt heavy and I was hit by a great wave of disappointment as I made the decision to turn around. At this point in my drive, I had had absolutely no issues, but my sister had made it to town and it had taken her hours to go a very short distance. I pulled off on the exit of a small no where town. Made a left turn to turn around and half way across the bridge, it happened. I hit ice. This has happened to me two other times in my life and turned out completely okay, because I knew what to do. I was a midwest girl who had driven in the elements often. But it turns out, I have been gone too long. Instead of doing the things I know to do, I panicked only remembering don't hit your brakes.
Sliding across into the other side of the road, picking up speed, it felt like forever though I'm sure it was mere seconds. The helpless feeling is very uncomfortable especially for someone who likes to fix things. My car slid until it hit the curb where it came to a quick stop. I remember being thankful as I sit there on the overpass that my car didn't hit with enough force to flip over the bridge. I got out of the car and slowly made my way to the front of my car to check out the damage and saw...nothing. I couldn't believe there was no damage at all. Getting back in the car, still feeling a bit shaky, I started driving ahead to try to make it to the motel. It is here that my whole car starts shaking. So much for that no damage bit. I pulled back over and get out again looking more closely this time. Realizing the damage was of the tire/rim. I had hit my bad news threshold. I wanted to be home by now after waiting weeks, but instead I was trying to make it to a motel, it was freezing(I despise the cold), and I have now gotten into an accident. I call my dad in tears, send him pictures of the wheel, and he books me the closest place to stay which is about 5 miles from me and with some faith I make it.
I remember sitting on the motel bed with my coat on for a couple hours waiting for the room to warm up and starving. I hadn't really eaten much all day and now I was stranded with no food. The tears had stopped but the sadness was very present. My sister sent me a request to facetime and for a few minutes we talked and laughed. She also hadn't made it to grandma's, but was safe for the night. The night hadn't turned out the way we had hoped, but everyone was safe. That's all we both could really ask for and we promised we would see each other tomorrow.
In the morning, I started to doubt that would really happen. I woke up to see the highway was still closed, the temperature was frigid, and the roads were still dangerous. Not to mention they were now calling for some snow to start early afternoon. My car was not safe to drive anywhere far and certainly not in this weather. I was at the mercy of other for help. I had started trying to decide if I should go pay for another night in this room when my mom called. "Jim is on his way with the trailer to bring your car back." My first though was concern they wouldn't make it safely and they should probably stay put, but Jim assured me he would see me when he got there. To say I was grateful is an understatement.
Jim and Colton(my mom's significant other and his son) showed up with salt and a plan. I had the very hard job of sitting in the heated truck as they maneuvered my car onto the trailer. I'm not great at being saved, at being the damsel in distress. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for people who help me in moments where I can't help myself that I can't even begin to express in words. Some feelings have no words that will do it justice.
We had no difficulties getting back and they had a vehicle waiting for me so I could rush off to my grandparent's to start Christmas. There is a deep seated tradition on how Christmas runs at my grandparent's that I hope never ends. In the morning, we get up together to open stockings, followed by breakfast, followed by sitting in a circle opening gifts one by one, and then lunch/cards/chatting/playing. I arrived right around 1pm on Saturday afternoon and snuck in through the basement door. As I opened the door at the top of the stairs, I saw my sweet niece looking out the sliding glass door waiting for me to appear. I feel incredibly lucky to be "Aunt KATIE" to this little girl. Quietly sneaking up behind her, I tickled her side and she turned out giving a great big smile and the excited "Aunt Katie" as she throws herself into my arms. I will be sad the day that she is too big to be picked up, which is likely approaching quickly.
The morning had not started without me. It had been frozen in time waiting for me to arrive. We opened our stockings together and then had quiche and biscuits and gravy at 1:30 in the afternoon. It felt like it went incredibly too fast. We played cards and shared lots of laughs. My sister got me a couple of different books fitted perfectly for the wandering soul that I am. Saturday night my brother left everyone with the bombshell that he was moving to Phoenix, tomorrow. I know that we all hope he will find what he is looking for in the warm sun and we will all miss him a great deal.
By Monday, I had started to panic a bit. My exam was in Little Rock on Tuesday morning and I was currently stuck 500 miles away, but by noon I got the confirmation from Jim that the rim was fixed and I could get on the road.
My journey home was uneventful, thankfully. Tuesday morning came and I felt okay when I left the exam. It is a two day exam and I took the second part on Thursday.
Wednesday was my fun day back in Little Rock. With a bunch of help, I prepared Friendsgiving/Christmas Dinner for my family away from my family. It was hectic, but so much fun and the food this year was completely incredible. We totally outdid ourselves. I am completely thankful to being having this residency adventure with an awesome group of people.
My mini trip home brought the realization that this midwest girl has gone a little Southern. I like the warm weather and don't love the snow. I had forgotten how to drive in snow/ice and what 0 degrees felt like. And if I spend enough time around people with true southern accents, I'll pick one up too, temporarily. But it doesn't take very long for that midwest girl to come out once I get home and I'm still much more likely to wear jeans and a t-shirt to a football game than a dress or flip flops instead of heels. Some things never change.
Tomorrow look for part 2 of my journey home.