Christmas of so long ago comes back to me in the most unexpected of ways and in the most unexpected of moments. These moments, when laughter suddenly turns into a lump in the hollow of my throat and a sense of stillness in my soul, make me pause. And I pause and look back. I look back and I marvel.
“I’m home from college and I’m taking my sister on an adventure”, Judy said as she returned for Christmas break following her first semester at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. “We are checking this village out and it better be ready for us”, Judy laughed as she talked about the new town we had moved into only six months earlier. Our parents always talked about the Village of Chapel Hill, a sleepy, slow, gracious area they remembered when we were small and lived in Glen Lennox Apartments. That was nine years earlier. Franklin Street, Carolina’s main drag, in 1963 was a ‘happening place’. That is to say, if something happened it was on Franklin Street.
We jumped into Mom’s 1962 white Rambler™ early on a Tuesday and took Mom to work at Blue Cross and Blue Shield at the edge of Carrboro. “Just be here to pick me up at 4:30; the car is yours until then, girls. Be careful parking.” We laughed at the comment of parking as Chapel Hill had angle parking ‘back in the day’.
I remember the silliest of things. Crooking our arms together and doing a little dance as we planned our Christmas foray. Judy decided that we were first going to share some elephant ears and French Crème Horns. The Carolina Bakery did French Crème Horns better than any place on the planet. But, it was the elephant ears we were after.
Already the street had filled up with people and cars. Judy was determined to get a parking spot in front of the bakery. I knew Judy well enough to realize that if she set a goal, she met the goal. And today’s goal was to park in front of the elephant ears and French crème horns. The Christmas traffic was tangling up in burgeoning Chapel Hill and Franklin Street was a ‘going concern’. However, doubt I did not. We drove past the filled-up angle parking in front of the bakery and were funneled into another lane where we had to turn unto Hillsborough Street.
My sister was on a mission and was not, by any means, going to give up. So, we went around the block and ended up making a right on Rosemary and another right unto East Franklin past the Church of the Holy Cross. The traffic had grown to the point of a honking, straddling car-mess. Through three intersections and two crosswalks Judy steered that chunky Rambler forward at a fervent pace. It is then that I spotted it. It was like manna from Heaven and I yelled out: “there’s the place, right in front. There it is!”
And there it was indeed, a spot directly in front of the elephant ears bakery. The Rambler which I had nicknamed “Ralph” came to a screeching halt. Without a care in the world, Judy turned this squatty car with a sharp ninety-degree angle ‘landing’, and I do mean landing, right between the white angled lines in front of the Carolina Bakery. We could not believe it! As we were two exuberant teens, we were screaming with joy over our new-found luck. Both of us clamored out of the car, quick to notice that the meter had money in it as we dashed for our prize of the gooey, refined sugary treats. Judy bought my elephant ear and I bought her French Crème horn and then we shared. It was such fun. And it was memorable.
Christmas 2002 and I was out and about in the Northern wintry cold that’s Alberta. It was a concert at the ‘Jube’ that I was going to and so dismayed to be late. There, of course, would be no parking spots available. Once around the loop and it became clear that, as always, Canadians got places early and were smart. Smart out of necessity, I thought. Now, I would have to walk a kilometer in minus ‘Idon’twant tomention’ degrees. But, as I was bemoaning; while, at the same time, admiring Edmonton’s beautiful facility in the heart of the University of Alberta, a car pulled out near the side entrance.
This was the closest and best spot to park in the lot for my ticket seats. I had to make an angled half-turn to maneuver the car and quickly jump out to race in the auditorium before the theatre doors were closed. It was, then, that it came to me. All those years ago. Judy. The parking place on Franklin Street during Christmas Break 1963.. Together with my sister and the joy of finding a place. I flashed back to that time I had all but forgotten and remembered how we kept mentioning our great luck. “Thank you, Judy”.
Since then, I’ve experienced this parking phenomenon more times then not. Over the past years, since my sister passed away in the summer of 2001, this heavenly phenomenon has truly amazed me. However, I have come to expect a parking place in the most unbelievable of circumstances. After every time I say “thank you, Judy” as do my friends if they are with me.
But, the most ‘sit up and take notice’ time of all was last Monday at midnight while driving to meet my husband’s incoming flight at the Edmonton International Airport. Three jumbo jets, plus a charter, were coming in from Denver, Cuba, Phoenix and Minneapolis at around the same time. The ‘Rendevous Point’ and surrounding arrival area was packed with cars straddling three lanes. In vain, I drove around the airport aimlessly deciding to try again for a spot in front so as to avoid the ‘parc de jour’ scenario.
I thought of Judy, but surely not this time; yet, I laughed as I recalled how it would be unwise to doubt. No, I had faith that I would find a place. And, then as I was hovering near door number nine at the NW International terminal entrance, I saw it. Impossible, but, no it was there, a Dodge mini-van pulling out of the perfect parking place of all time! I now sat up and took notice. But, it became surreal when I found that the meter had money in it.
Thank you, Judy. Thank you. I smiled and felt the generous gift of much needed memories between sisters.
by DFRaborn BA SDG