Yesterday I was doing my last grocery shopping for the holiday. For Christmas Eve just a small dinner and singing the 9:00 service, for Christmas Day my traditional Beef Wellington, spinach pie, butternut squash, apple cranberry crisp with vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream, for Boxing Day (the 26th) Derek and Ian join me and Richard and Kathleen for swordfish and shrimp. After I went back into the parking lot, I saw a frazzled-looking woman wandering around from lane to lane pushing her cart. Clearly she had forgotten where she had parked. Finally she actually came out with it, wailing to the universe, “I can’t find my car!” I hesitated for a moment, thinking about the frozen products I had just loaded into my trunk, and then figured that it was the perfect day to do a mitzvah — a good deed. I drove my car into the lane where she had just landed (no small feat, considering the frantic drivers maneuvering through the full parking lot to do their critical holiday food shopping), and rolled down my window. I asked her if I could help her find her car. “Thank you so much.” She was almost crying. She couldn’t leave her cart, so I asked her for the license plate number. “I don’t know.” What kind of car? “I don’t know, I’m so bad with that. Maybe a Buick. It has four doors.” What color is it? “Sort of… champagne.” Hmm. “It has an antenna on the rear windshield.” Okay.
She has half-blonde hair, a lot of lipstick, black sequins on her scarf, and turquoise chandelier earrings. I wonder what the story is. She doesn’t know what kind of car she has?
I take off and cruise the parking lot for about 10 minutes, without seeing anything that I think could be her car. I finally give up, because I too need to get back home and finish my holiday preparations. And I have so little to go on. I drive back to her, where she seems calmer now. I’m so sorry, I say, I can’t find it at all. Maybe you should go back inside and get someone at the store to watch your cart, and I’m sure they can drive you around until you recognize it…. “Thank you,” she says. “I’ll figure it out. My mother died today.”
That took my breath away. I couldn’t find her car, but I was glad that I had tried. A small thing to do for another human being. On a day when she needed it.
A few years ago, when my Dad was old, he couldn’t find his car after shopping. A kind man drove him around in the dark, and when they had to give up, the man drove him home. The next day, in the sunshine, he found it parked around the corner from the store. He felt very sheepish. But I was so glad to hear that someone had helped him get home. A kind stranger doing a mitzvah. So yesterday I paid it forward.
One of my friends is going through domestic turmoil at the moment. She is moving out of her house, and trying to get herself safely situated before she tackles the bigger questions… like, what is she going to do for the rest of her life? She was driving home from Christmas Eve dinner at her sister’s in the next state, and as she pulled up to a tollbooth, the moneyman waved her through. “The lady up ahead paid for you. She said to tell you Merry Christmas, and God loves you.” Passing it on…
And last night, which was the fifth anniversary of the day I pinpoint as the date on which I fell in love with Richard, I was singing with him at the glorious, candle-lit, Christmas Eve service at our church. Right in the middle of “O Come All You Faithful,” when he had quietly stepped away from the bass section of the choir, I heard the ringing sound of his trumpet on the descant in harmony with the voices and the organ. As the peels of that bright sound came down all around the church, bringing memories of my Dad, also a trumpet player, and all the Christmases of years past, I felt the amazing miracle of our love. That I found him; that he found me; that we love each other and get the chance to make a life together which continues to get sweeter every year.
And last night, just before we fell asleep, I listened again to the voicemail message he left me five years ago (!) on my cell. That Christmas Eve, we had seen each other for dinner, then stood and watched the sun go down over the water in Southport. That’s the moment I think I catapulted into love. But we had to leave each other after dinner to sing at our respective Christmas Eve services.
In the voicemail message, left late that night five years ago, he said that he had thought of me “just as they were lighting the candles at the very end of the service. I was thinking that tonight was so perfect, and I couldn’t think of anything that could have made it more perfect. And then finally I did think of something that would make it even more perfect… and that would be, if I could be singing with you.”
Miracles do happen.
Merry Holidays. Share the love.