I say to mom, who lives nine hours away, “Let’s meet in the middle and have Christmas and celebrate the not-so-little-anymore-boy’s birthday.”
I drive six hours and mom and the boy and his mother, my sister, meet me at a hotel lobby that has a seven-foot tree with presents underneath.
I drive six hours, gassing up at the most expensive spot—the base of the Grapevine (Tejon Pass)—in winds that make my teeth clatter. I drive as fast as I can to get to Christmas, hardly noticing the landscape, forgetting that sometimes weather can shift quickly in Gorman.
The woman I grew up alongside and her youngest son (on the eve of nine) and the woman who grew us and I stand in the lobby at the end of a year where we have met on three occasions, but we easily pick up the conversations we’ve been having along the way. We eat three meals together, exchange laughter and wisdom, gifts and kisses, and then we set off our separate ways.
There is more to think about on the return side of the journey.
The first couple of miles of the Grapevine are, as the day before, unremarkable. Then, there are flecks of snow on the ground: a herd of bay ponies dappled in white. I wonder if I am driving into a Christmas card.
Someone shakes the snow globe and what were rain drops become flakes. Falling faster flakes. And, the people all around me press their brakes as they speed their way down the freezing pass before it is closed.