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by Nancy Lane
On this Christmas Eve three frequent companions took turns driving. Wind steered through the gorge, whipping the wheel frenetically. Bump, bump, bump, the car bounced from side to side and crashed over downed branches. Not such a good driver thought Rain, uncomfortable in the back seat. Snow, up front on the passenger side, smiled good-naturedly, amused by Wind’s wild whistling and whooping as the car careened back and forth. Must be deliberate thought Snow. No one could inadvertently tag all downed debris on both sides of the lane without missing a pine cone or needle cluster.
Suddenly Wind stopped. The landscape beyond the gorge had changed dramatically. Thousands of years before, lava had flowed across the land, and modern engineers had tossed pumice aside like bowling balls to clear an alley through a rocky, treeless expanse. Wind bid the other travelers a safe ride and disappeared. Rain grabbed control gladly, jumping into the driver’s seat and adjusting the mirrors Wind had left askew. Dark clouds conspired to hide stars and moon. Snow wished Rain wouldn’t drive so fast. The car at times lifted from the pavement. Rain, bellicose and blustery, rolled on, rumbling and roaring with each sudden dip and turn in the road.
As the rocky terrain rose to meet a ponderosa forest, Rain halted and jumped out. Above the road the sky displayed wispy white clouds bordered by a million dazzling diamonds twinkling in the crisp cold. Rain’s customary farewell salute splashed unwelcome droplets on Snow, who smiled and nodded. Old friends overlook such things. Snow came around the car and slapped down into the driver’s seat for the solitary remainder of the journey home. A shaft of moonlight on clear ground between the giant trees fell upon a dark wolf running parallel to the road. Snow slowed and watched until the wolf disappeared into long shadows. Wanting to arrive home as early as possible, Snow sped up to the pace of a wedge of geese above, their flight silhouetted against thickening white clouds.
The dirt road to the farmhouse led to a gravel drive where nearly a dozen cars, some with out-of-state license plates, sat like frosty metal tokens on a game board. Snow parked the car beside the willow tree near the old red barn and glanced to the top of the stone chimney at the side of the house. No smoke, not even a little puff – occupants had all gone to bed many hours earlier, Tall Ones tucking in Tiny Ones with stories, goodnight kisses and prayers. Snow imagined the excitement of the children. They probably stayed up as late as the adults, chattering about Santa and guessing if Snow would arrive yet in time for making angels. Snow was seldom this late, usually arriving by November end.
Silent night had slipped into a pre-morning hush, with only a couple of hours left before purple eyelids would flutter like butterfly wings, followed by gleeful giggles. Snow stepped out of the car and noticed a slight movement in the clearing in front of the barn doors. Only pale moonlight sifted through the gathering clouds, dimly illuminating an awkward, spotted fawn. Snow watched the fawn as the mama doe stepped from behind a sugar pine. She winked at Snow before leading her baby into the stand of sugar pines lining the silver skate pond. Weary from travel and happy to have arrived in time, Snow lay down on the ground, soon falling asleep and dreaming of angels.
Dawn danced with Sun behind the barn before continuing the daily travel west. Sun, partially hidden behind the willow tree, stretched out a golden ray, past the land’s new white blanket, to push a note of peace and love beneath the farmhouse door. Smoke curled from the chimney as Tiny Ones at the windows stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed and beckoned Tall Ones to come and see the beautiful Christmas morning.