Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas = Hare Krishnas; or, How I Spent December 24th Many Years Ago

Snow! Glorious snow! Christmas of 2006 will definitely be white one for those of us who got hit with the blizzard. I just finished reading a news article about how thousands of airline passengers are stuck at the airport in Denver. My own dad and his wife have extended their stay in Mexico because they can't get a flight into Denver. Stuck in Mexico...could be worse fates, I think.

But thinking of all those people longing to get home to their loved ones by Monday reminds me of a Christmas Eve many years ago when I was stranded in an airport due to inclement weather. I was young...was I even 20? I've traveled a lot...years blur and in the end, don't matter anyway. What I remember most is feeling depressed at the prospect of spending the holiday without my family or boyfriend, who was in the Marines (and still is, actually) and had gotten leave so we could spend a few precious days together. Sigh. He was waiting for me on the other end of my itinerary, flowers in hand. He ended up giving them to an old lady and making her day.

I, on the other hand, tried to get comfortable on the floor since it was quite clear I would be spending the night. I must have dozed off, because when I awoke, I was looking up into a sea of orange. Now, of all people I might have found myself in the company of that cold and snowy December 24th, the last I expected were Hare Krishnas. But there they were, looking at me with as much interest as I'm sure I was looking back at them with. The first thought that popped into my head was "I wish Sis was with me." My sister and I would have laughed hysterically at the absurdity of the situation. And that mere thought of her sharing my experience made me start laughing out loud. I'm sure that did wonders in terms of what these bald, orange-robed men thought of me. Yeah, this was going to be quite a Christmas Eve.

I smiled awkwardly up at them and arose to choose a seat near the giant window so that I could watch the snow. I've always been mesmerized by falling snow. As a child in Wisconsin, I saw my fair share of blizzards. And I remember Dad making fun of me because I always wanted to camp out in the living room on the night of a snowfall so that I'd be closer to the snow. You and I know that idea is silly, but to my child's brain, I was that many steps closer to my snowsuit, hat, mittens, scarf, and parka in the morning. I would leave my brother and sister in the dust.

As I sat watching those fat flakes float to the ground, I managed to forget where I was. And I began to sing. I do that a lot, too. Bored? I sing. Happy? Sing. Sad? Sing. I remember events in my life by songs that were popular at the time, or ones I just really liked. So there I sat, one young lonely girl amidst a rather large group of Hare Krishnas. The only thing we had in common was that we wanted to be somewhere else.

I don't remember what Christmas carol I was singing when I realized my voice had been joined by several others. In harmony! I thought all Hare Krishnas did was chant, but boy, was I wrong. Those guys could sing, and they weren't bashful about it. Pretty soon, other stranded travelers joined us in song, and it was truly like a scene from a movie. None of us wanted to be where we were, yet the spirit of the season would not let us down. We joined together that evening and let the music be our bond.

I can't tell you how long our singing went on, but there are a lot of Christmas carols, and between us, we knew them all. And I distinctly remember the feeling of loss and disappointment leave me. For a while, I was actually happy to be where I was: in a cold airport with bald dudes draped in orange robes and hundreds of other people I'd never see again.

Not a Christmas goes by that I don't remember that experience. However long it lasted, its feeling of fellowship and human kindness has stayed with me for decades, and I can't help but smile whenever I recall the memory. It warms my heart and reminds me that we choose our paths for reasons both obvious and unknown, but what we choose to make of our situation is up to us.

I've sung on television. I've sung in front of live audiences on stages across the country. I've sung to my children, and I sang to my mom as I scattered her ashes two years ago. But never have I been so thankful for my voice as I was that Christmas Eve so long ago.

May this holiday season bring you your own special memories.


Anonymous said...

You're right - I would have laughed my ass off!

Sis :)

april t said...

ohmigosh whatta great story becky! loved this one. :)