Like many couples, Andy and I had to sort out the holidays when we got married. I expected a pitched battle.
I opted for the soft opening. “Since your birthday is around Thanksgiving, why don’t you pick where we go and what we do for that holiday and I’ll decide what we do for Christmas.”
Andy countered with, “Sure.”
“After all, my family lives in ski country and we could tie our Christmas trip to the slopes, which would be more economical than making a separate ski trip.”
Andy said, “That’s true.”
“And you don’t even really care about Christmas and your family doesn’t do anything anyway, and my family does and so I should get Christmas.”
The battle was tough. But I prevailed.
We spent our first few Christmases with various siblings in D.C. and Virginia. Then we met up in Utah.
This year, I decided it was time to go back to my favorite place on the planet – New Hampshire. I checked the long-term winter forecast from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. (Everyone does this, right?) After scanty snowfall last winter, the NOAA forecast a “normal” winter for New England. That was all I needed. A typical winter in the White Mountains means a white Christmas. Lakes will ice over. Giant Belgian draft horses will pull sleighs around villages. Tourists will realize that the picturesque covered bridges actually serve a purpose (keeping 4+ feet of snow from breaking the bridge).
I made airline reservations in October, using up all the frequent flyer miles in both of our accounts for economy class tickets. Ex-Stepmother assured me that I wouldn’t need to rent a car. I found Aussie Farm Girl, a cheap house-sitter who could handle giant dogs and cat puke with aplomb.
I put the weather for Nowhere, New Hampshire on my phone in mid-November. I checked the forecast daily and rejoiced.
They had a white Thanksgiving.
Ski resorts opened by December.
There had been multiple snowfalls by December 10th. The temperature wasn’t expected to rise above 25 degrees and the outdoor skating rink was filled.
Two big storm systems were expected to bring a ton of snow in when we arrived.
A week before our flight was scheduled to leave Los Angeles, the forecast for the day after our arrival changed.
To RAIN. 45 degrees and RAIN.
My outrage was so audible my dog hid behind a chair.
“WHAT THE FUCK, NEW HAMPSHIRE?!”
I know, I know. Climate change. We have to get used to unpredictable weather, right?
Only this was predictable. When I make big plans, rain comes to visit. Seriously. I wrote a whole post on it.
So now I had the worst possible trip forecast: a big snowfall could screw up our connecting flight in Chicago and our arrival into Manchester…only to be washed away by rain the following day. Visions of a picturesque white Christmas were replaced by Christmas Mud.
T-minus 6 Days: Meteorologists give the cursed storm a name: “Decima.” I give it a different name: Damned Decima.
T-minus 5 days: Decima gains strength. Blizzard-like conditions are expected in Chicago. Our connection looks dicier by the second.
T-minus 4 days: Warm air from the southeast will heat New Hampshire up to the balmy mid-forties the day after Decima. Our first day there, we will wake up to rain…if we make it through Decima to Manchester and from Manchester up into the White Mountains.
T-minus 3 days: I shake off my depression, pull up two web browsers, and pit modern technology against Autumn’s Rain Curse.
T-minus 2 days…becomes T-minus 1 day: 5 hours on the computer. 30 text messages to family members. $200 to United Airlines, and I change both our tickets. We’ll leave a day early, fly to San Francisco, sprint for a connecting flight to Boston, fly over the blizzarding Decima, and catch a ride from Boston up to New Hampshire from an obliging sister’s significant other.
T-minus 90 minutes: Andy hydroplanes on all the water Decima’s spiteful spinoff dropped overnight at LAX. We spin toward one guard rail. Andy corrects. We spin toward the other guard rail. I think, “That’s it, my vacation is cursed, we’re going to crash.” Andy miraculously straightens us out, despite having foolishly turned off the Vehicle Dynamic Control (as he always does, because he’s in the habit of it, because actual weather is so unusual in LA). We don’t crash. We make our flight despite security lines and my endless harangue on his reckless driving.
We make it to our Boston flight with seconds to spare.
We land safely at Logan airport.
Our ride is on time. I figure we’ve done it.
Until we reach the highway. I’ve never driven with someone who over steers, overcorrects, can’t hold a steady speed, and is easily distracted. The car goes from one side of the lane to the other. Then back again. I-93 is the straightest, emptiest Interstate in the East, yet Andy’s head and my head wobble worse than a Big Papi bobble head. Grabbing Andy’s hand, I whisper, “You’re the best driver EVER and you saved us this morning and I’m so sorry I said those mean things.”
I can see the whites of Andy’s eyeballs. He whispers back, “You’re only saying that because we’re gonna roll any second and die.”
“Yep. And we were so close.”
But we survive. Our ride is Catholic. As our survival can only be ascribed to the intervention of the Patron Saint of Crap Drivers, I may have to rethink the whole atheist thing.
I walk in the morning’s silent snowfall instead of standing in line at an airport. Snow coats the evergreens and the rare russet leaf autumn left behind. I don’t see another soul. The snow falls most of the day, stopping just in time for us to sally forth in search of a Christmas tree.
This time, I drive. The first farm has no trees over six feet. We go to a second farm and find a perfect, nine-foot tree. As the sun sets, the Christmas lights make even the Christmas tree lot magical.
The rain will wash away the snow tomorrow. I know there’s no escaping my soggy fate. But modern meteorology and technology helped me delay it.
I got one glorious day in a winter wonderland.