Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Little Things

It was a wet Christmas Eve. Not a soft white wet, but the cold slushy kind. We spent the evening at my Grandmom's house, my parents talking with Aunts and Uncles while us cousins huddled around and imagined what tomorrow would bring.

The images of this Christmas Eve have blended with images of so many others that nothing really stands out. I remember hot chocolate and carved turkey, newborns and candy canes, little plastic snowmen and sugar cookies sprinkled with red and green. A not-quite-right Santa, pollyannas, green tinsel and new socks.

Later that night, my weary family and I packed tightly into our car, umbrellas and jackets, gifts and leftovers. The wetness was everywhere and us kids with the cold ruddy cheeks were cranky. My brother was still mad at me for breaking the cannon of his new toy tank, and I at him for hiding my new baseball cap. My sisters weren't speaking for similar reasons and my parents were quiet, exhasted . In the cold dark dampness we sat unhappily with echos of Bing Crosby dancing in our heads.

My youngest sister noticed it first, but soon we were all staring. Our car lunged to a halt. A house not more than a block from my Grandparent's was decorated with twinkling lights over the windows and a manger on the porch. On the lawn was the biggest and brightest display of Santa and his Reindeer that I had ever seen. But in the center of the display, right where Comet and Cupid should have been, where was a great big car. In the wet grass you could see the tracks where the car had slipped off the road, skipped over the curb and plowed through the reindeer.

My dad went to get out of the car, but as he reached for his door the entangled car began to rev its engine. From our position beneath the adjacent streetlight we could see the shadows of mud being thrown, tires spinning madly. Dark brown splashed across the lawn and house, even landing on Rudolph.

Suddenly the car broke free. As it backed across the lawn and over the curve, the headlights illuminated broken plastic bits of reindeer amidst the streaks of mud. With a screech, the car sped off, racing away.

'They're going to get away!' my sisters yelled in unison, but before we could pursue them they were gone. A collective gasp escaped our lips. The had gotten away...

'945 UFG!' my youngest sister screamed. We turned in concert and looked at her blankly. '945 UFG, the license plate, 945 UFG.'

We would have written it down if we had a pen but there was none. Instead we repeated the numbers and letters silently and out loud over and over again. Together we struggled to remember the plate on the long wet ride home, '945 UFG'.

To this day I can't remember what I got that next morning for Christmas, but I do recall that license plate, '945 UFG'.

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