By Art Martens
Linda and I were early in our dating relationship when we were gifted with an experience that still awakens the Christmas spirit within us. I was 19 and she was 16. It was the middle of December when the seed of the memory was sown on a road in a remote, heavily forested area behind Mission B.C.
I recall with great clarity the dark cloud that moved in rapidly and unexpectedly unleashed a drenching downpour. The windshield wipers could scarcely cope with the deluge. Ahead of us a grey figure became discernible, bumping in our direction beside the road. I slowed the car as we passed by. It was an elderly woman, her sodden coat wrapped tightly about her. Face toward the ground and shoulders slumping forward, she appeared feeble, miserable and utterly dejected.
Linda gasped and said, “she needs help!” I turned the car around and pulled alongside her. “Would you like a ride?” I asked. She nodded wearily, relief and gratitude on her lined, disconsolate face. I opened the rear door and, encumbered by her heavy wet coat, she clambered in awkwardly.
In a quiet, slightly quavering voice, she directed us to an obscure graveled road. After a couple of minutes, she said “There, that’s where I live.” I pulled the car into a barely discernible driveway and opened the door for her. “Thank you,” she said, “I wasn’t sure I’d get here.” Her teeth chattered but she declined my offer to assist her to the door of her small ramshackle home.
I forgot about the woman, but Linda didn’t. The evening of December 24th, an almost full moon shining overhead, we drove again to the elderly woman’s home. Pale light shone through the only 2 windows. Walking toward the house, holding hands, we heard a dog bark inside. I knocked on the door, and the dog barked again. After waiting a long minute in the chill night air, I knocked a second time, more vigorously. Still no answer. I made a fist and banged with considerable force. Excited barking suggested the presence of several dogs.
Finally the door creaked opened just enough to reveal the woman’s wispy visage and uncombed white hair. A crescendo of raucous barking erupted behind her. It was evident she wasn’t accustomed to company, especially two strangers after darkness had set in. She peered warily through the barely open door.
“Hello,” Linda said. “We picked you up a few weeks ago when it was raining so hard. We’re here to wish you a Merry Christmas.”
Reassured, she stepped out onto the porch, clad in a flimsy house coat. “I’d invite you in,” she said apologetically, “but I have 11 dogs in there.”
She glanced up at the nearly full moon, then asked, “Is it really Christmas?” The light of the moon revealed a lonely, wistful expression on her upturned face. “When I was a child my grandparents took me to church with them one Christmas Eve,” she said. “There was a manger and shepherds with sheep. A baby lay in the manger. They said it was Jesus. That was many years ago. I had not thought of it in a long time.”
We talked for about 5 minutes, then she shivered and pulled the house coat more tightly about her thin frame. She had no resistance against the crisp December evening. Realizing she needed to go back inside, Linda presented her with a small gift and we bade her farewell. She followed us to the car. As I backed onto the road, she stood clearly silhouetted in the light of the moon. Waving vigorously, she called, “Au revoir! Au revoir!” I turned down the car window, waved, and responded “auf wieder sehen!” As we drove away, she continued to wave and call out “au revoir!”
In time, Linda and I were married, adopted 2 wonderful children and became immersed in our careers. The memory of that night faded and I no longer thought of the little white haired lady. Then, a few years ago just before Christmas, the events of that night came back to me unexpectedly. In my mind I saw her again, standing in the driveway illuminated by the moon, waving with great fervour and calling “au revoir!”
Now each year, the memory rekindles the Christmas spirit that otherwise might lie dormant within me. It’s a reminder that when we bring joy into someone’s life, we also receive joy.
Source:: Living Significantly