I don't remember which year it was. It may have been the winter of 2009 or 2010. I remember that my son was very young and we still lived in the house prior to the one we live in now.
By that point, our van had been in desperate need of new tires for months. The front ones were quite bald, but for reasons now lost to me--likely a combination of finances and scheduling--we hadn't yet made it a point to replace them.
I was home with my son for the day, so it was a Monday. We made our weekly trip to the town where my parents lived just for something to do. Grandma and grandson loved hanging out together, so I made it a part of our Monday mornings in those days. After our visit ended, we began the drive home, during which a snowstorm started to kick up, quickly covering the roads.
I thought we'd be fine before conditions became too bad. I was mistaken. We probably would have been okay had the semi truck in front of us not slowed to a stop on an uphill road, making it impossible for the van on its smooth tires to just pull around it and continue. Instead, I had to turn us around and find another route back to the house that involved less of an incline.
The next route I tried was on too much of a downhill slope. Despite having my foot on the brake, we slid right through a stop sign. Turning around would mean the same impossible climb upward.
Another intersection saw us get rear-ended. I was at a dead stop, so this wasn't the tires' fault. There was no damage, except to my increasingly fraying nerves.
The entire time, my son was watching Sid the Science Kid on the car's DVD player, quite oblivious to what was happening. To help ensure he was okay and to calm myself down, I kept asking him what Sid was learning about; what he and his friends were exploring together. I tried to feed off his innocent calm as much as I could, my concern for his safety welling up like a baseball in my throat.
The fourth attempt I made was successful. It featured a flat road, albeit still not yet plowed. The van was able even to get up the slight grade of our driveway and into the garage. The tight hug I gave my son once we were inside bewildered him; he just wanted to head to his toybox.
I point back to this experience as a turning point in my opinion of the winter season. For years after I would dread snow-covered roads, worried that I'd have to re-live this in some form. Although I am much more vigilant about how long either of our vehicles has been on the same tires.
It's been long enough now that I can see the more joyful aspects of this time of year again, but it has not come quickly or easily. Many are still unable to find joy in winter, let alone specifically the holidays, due to tragedies, traumas, or griefs perhaps years removed though still fresh.
I hope and pray for them, less for tidy resolutions and more for the tires they need to keep navigating through.
Image via FreeFoto.