Disaster around the holidays is never something you hope for. As a matter of fact, we all spend a lot of energy praying things will just go smoothly. We want a fun and stress-free Christmas. After all, having “fun” is the opposite of being stressed, right? “Disaster” just spells, well…disaster.
Perhaps. Or maybe it depends more on how you deal with an event which doesn’t go exactly according to your plans.
When I asked my family for some memories of Christmas, the first thing everyone thought of was the infamous Christmas of “The Three Disasters.”
Disaster Number One: The Truck Wreck
Shortly before Christmas, on a snowy morning, my Dad was going to work. We live in Minnesota: white-out conditions are just a part of the season-a minor blizzard is nothing to keep you home, especially when you drive a Dodge truck.
But things were getting icy, so before he left he decided to back his truck up to the storage shed to get some sand, which would add weight to the back of the truck for better traction. In order to do this, he had to back up over the narrow road that crosses the stream that runs through our yard. His truck slid, and wound up lying on its side in the ditch. Only by the grace of God was there a small Maple sapling there in the perfect place to catch the truck and keep it from rolling multiple times.
My brother Eric had been watching from the window. When the accident happened he went calmly to inform Mom that, “Dad just rolled his truck into the ditch.” Mom, not quite as calmly, rushed out with Eric to see if Dad was okay.
My sister and I woke up just in time to see Dad getting in Mom’s van to leave for work. We all watched as the tow truck used winches wrapped around trees to lift Dad’s truck out of the ditch and set it upright again. They asked Mom if she needed a ride to the hospital, which made her suddenly realize what a miracle it was that Dad hadn’t been injured. Instead of seeing this as a disaster, we all began to see how blessed we’d been.
Disaster Number Two: The Great Flood
On this particular Christmas, our family had just recently moved into a new house and my sister and I were still sleeping on mattresses on the floor of our basement room. Our belongings were still mostly in boxes stacked on the floor.
When Dad came to wake us up on Christmas morning, he found several inches of standing water: the water softener had recycled and the pump had stopped working, flooding the pump room, sending water down the hall to turn our carpet into a marshland. We were evacuated across the ingenious sled-drawbridge our brother made for us.
I’d always wanted a moat; just not in my bedroom.
Disaster Number Three: The Tree Wreck
All of us (except Mom) have always dreamed of the perfect tree. By perfect I don’t just mean perfectly shaped. We spend hours in the tree lot every year finding that tree. What we wanted was a tall tree, and not just tall-enough-to-touch-the-ceiling tall-we’d been pushing the limits on that restriction for years. This year we’d moved into a house with vaulted ceilings.
We picked out the tallest tree we could find. It was so big it almost didn’t fit through the door, or fit into the tree stand we had. After wrestling it through the door, we managed to get it into the tree stand, and decorated it with the ornaments we’d collected over the course of years of family vacations.
However, our dream was short-lived as several hours later our tree fell over, breaking the stand, and smashing several of our ornaments. We got a new stand, salvaged ornaments, and set it up a second time.
Exhausted, we decided to call it a day and go to bed. Mom had just fallen asleep when she thought she heard the sound of something falling. Dad went downstairs and looked around but said everything seemed okay.
It wasn’t until the next morning that we found our dream tree lying on its side once more, resulting in even more broken ornaments.
This called for drastic measures. Dad and Eric screwed several hooks into the wall and anchored the tree with wires. We decided not to use any breakable ornaments that year.
And there you have our three disasters.
The funny thing is, none of those things are what I really remember about that Christmas. My favourite memory is of being an upstairs refugee from the flood: warm in my new Christmas-present-robe, reading, watching it snow, and being with my family. I thank God my Dad was okay after the accident–the important thing. Every single book and piece of electronic equipment in our room survived the flood. The tree ornaments may not have been replaceable, but the memories are still ours and we’ve had plenty of fun trips since where we’ve purchased new ornaments to put on the tree.
I’m learning that a disaster doesn’t always have to be disastrous. There are certainly real disasters: people don’t always survive car accidents, floods do destroy whole homes, and things worse than ornaments can be broken. But more often than not what we think of as disasters are really just inconveniences. If you stop trying for perfection, and learn to put things into perspective, times of inconvenience can actually become some of your best memories.