So, #9 on Christmas Countdown and a TRUE story for you! Yes, a true story! No fiction here M’Lad.
Here’s Patrice Fitzgerald to explain…
Several years ago, I was asked to sing at a midnight service on Christmas Eve in a church some distance from my home. It seems odd to me now that I would make this trip, in virtually the middle of the night, to a church I didn’t know. But I was flattered to be asked, and I knew that I could work this one-evening commitment into my crowded life — nurse my baby daughter, leave the house by 10:30 p.m., have a brief rehearsal, perform, and be back home in time to get a few hours sleep before the 6:00 a.m. feeding.
On the way down, it was bitter cold, and I got lost. I stopped by a lonesome payphone to double check the church address — no mobile phones then. The bright bite of snowflakes hit my nose and chilled the inside of my collar as I stood near the highway, trying to punch in the numbers with shivering fingers.
At last I arrived at the church and stepped into the magnificent, light-filled space, aglow with candles and flowers. The rehearsal was nearly over, but I knew this music. As the people came in, the vaulted ceiling began to resonate with the sound of holiday greetings. We in the choir made our way up the aisle in a candle-lit procession, our voices echoing throughout the sanctuary. We sang “Angels We Have Heard On High” and the harmonic peals of “Gloria in excelsis Deo” swirled around the church and beamed off the stained glass windows.
I was so glad I had come.
Afterward, I got into the car for the long, cold drive home. Still sated with the glow of music and warmth, but very tired, I coasted back toward town. I knew that my baby daughter would be up with the dawn. All I could think about was how good my bed would feel.
Just as I headed into the section of downtown where we’re told to lock our doors, I noticed a car ahead trying to avoid something in the road. In the middle of the street, on a patch of ice, lay an old coat. No. It was… an injured dog?
Oh my God.
It was a body. Was he dead? As I watched another car swerve around him, I was stunned that anyone could ignore this human splayed on the pavement. If he hadn’t been hit already, he would be soon. Someone would be driving too fast, or be too tired.
I stopped in the middle of the road, directly beside the body. The lump of fur staggered to its feet. It was a woman, in high-heeled boots, slipping hesitantly along the ice. Two more cars rolled past. As I opened the door of my husband’s leather-seated car, a voice inside my head whispered, “Is this safe?” I ignored the voice.
The woman came over to the passenger door, and the smell of alcohol preceded her. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m so cold.”
She told me she’d had an argument with her mother, and had gone out for a drink. She was about my age, maybe younger, looking older. I drove her home that 2:00 a.m. It was no more than a couple of miles, but it would have been a long, painful walk in the freezing wind, wearing spike-heeled boots and a fake fur jacket.
I brought her to one of a long row of attached homes. I lived nearby, but I had never seen those streets, so close to mine, just a few blocks from where the Governor has a mansion.
I wondered why she was here and I was there, in my snug little house with my loving family. I knew that no argument could be harsh enough to send me out to a bar on Christmas Eve, leaving me to stagger home alone in the bitter cold. I felt wonderment that I was blessed with so good a life; so full a life; so happy a life.
I have thought of her many times since that Christmas Eve. I have thought about what she gave me.
Awareness. Gratitude. Perspective.
I believe I gave her something too. I believe I gave her a moment of grace that lifted her out of harm’s way.
And I believe that the ending of this story might have been very different… if the next car to come along had not brought me, soft and warm from the memories of music and a nursing babe, willing to open my door to a stranger on Christmas Eve.
Patrice Fitzgerald is a mom (the baby from this true story is now 21!), a wife, an intellectual property attorney, a mezzo-soprano who dabbles in everything from jazz to opera, a writer, and a publisher. She lives in Connecticut on the water, where she started an electronic publishing business this summer.
Her short story “Looking for Lance,” a wry look at domestic bliss, is also available through Kindle and Nook.
Thanks for sharing that Patrice!
See, I told you it was true!
Check back tomorrow for #8 and the ethereal Tallulah Grace!
Have a great weekend!
- 12 days of Christmas – #10 Matt Posner (sapphicscribe.wordpress.com)