Inch by inch, the Subaru crawled over the snow-covered road. Inside the car, the CRUNCH and TEAR of our progress seemed to echo as Dad carefully drove the six long blocks up Gay Street.
It was time to pick up Grandma Elsie. And during the Christmas Blizzard of 1982, that was no small feat.
I can see a number of you nodding along. No surprise. You can always tell the long-time Front Range residents by dropping the words “Christmas” and “1982” into the conversation. That was the year of Bing Crosby’s Revenge, when the snow started coming on Christmas Eve and refused to stop.
That was the Christmas Eve when Dad battled long and hard to clear the front driveway – only to peek out the window during his coffee break and see it covered over again.
That was the Christmas Eve when I left my bicycle on the back porch – and looked out the next morning to see just the tip of one handle breaking the snow.
For my sisters and me, it was the coolest Christmas ever, with the world briefly transformed into our own personal Hoth. (Yes, even then we were Star Wars geeks.) Looking back as an adult, I can only imagine how exhausting it must have been for my folks.
Snow transforms the world, and I still love the beauty and magic that it brings as it makes old landscapes new. But it also carries a price.
It means more work, more caution and less haste.
It means breaking your routine and thinking about what you’re doing and why.
Most of all, it means looking out for your neighbor and lending a hand where you can, whether it’s helping to shove their high-centered car off a snowy median or lending an extra shovel to clear a walk.
And when you’ve made it through one of the Big Ones, you remember. Surviving the Christmas Blizzard of ’82 becomes a badge of pride.
We’ve seen those lessons in other times and places, many of them much less picturesque. Tornado. Wildfire. Flood. All the moments that reach out and test you as a person and a community.
Moments like now.
Years from now, a lot of us (I hope) will be boring kids and grandkids with our stories of the Pandemic of 2020. We’ll have our own tales of the uncertainty, the frustration, the odd things we had to do to get by when the world suddenly sprouted more masks than a Marvel Comics movie.
And hopefully, we’ll also have the same lesson to pass on. That it’s in the times of crisis that your love for your neighbor is truly tested.
We sing a lot about love this time of year. It fills our stories from the haunting lines of “A Christmas Carol” to the cheesiest Hallmark movie on the screen. And whether the tale is profound or trite, one element always comes back – love doesn’t leave you alone.
It doesn’t care about what’s comfortable or normal. It’s likely to ask you to change – to uproot what you thought you knew and rebuild. To think beyond your own skin and sacrifice, whether it’s to help a neighbor or a world.
It’s a hard gift to give. And the best one.
And when the world seems cold, it’s that love that will again light the fire.
The time has come. The season is here. The need is everywhere. Remember the lessons we learned in the snow and reach out with them, even when there’s not a single flake to be seen.
The road has been slow and the progress agonizing. But the destination’s worth it.
With care, we can reach it together.
Even without four-wheel drive.