Members Share Holiday Memories, Near and Far from Home
by Mary Dilworth
Chris Little, a former president of the Denver Bar Association, found himself stuck in the Blizzard of 1982 on Christmas Eve, marooned in his car, when he was a sophomore at the University of Colorado.
He was out running errands with his dog Baron in his Jeep. "This truck had the same tires it had when it was purchased in 1959—bald," Little said. "You had to use the choke to start it and there really was no heater. I headed out on Arapahoe and after an hour I made it to Yosemite. Then I got stuck—the truck had slipped into the ditch and was not going anywhere."
He tried, in vain, to dig the truck out, but finally conceded and walked to a nearby Holiday Inn. He used a pay phone to call his mom, who advised him to "stay put."
"Reports suggest it was snowing as much as three inches an hour, but I decided I was not going to spend Christmas Eve in a Holiday Inn," Little said.
With no money, but family nearby, he headed west.
"There was no one on the road and Baron and I set out," he said. "I think I probably started getting concerned when it was dark, no cars out, and we were only halfway there. There was probably two feet of snow on the ground and the winds were freezing."
But, a savior in a Subaru suddenly pulled up, with all its four-wheel-drive glory, and delivered him and Baron safely to the house of his cousin, Lynn Gossett Kubiak—today the deputy clerk for the Colorado Supreme Court.
"We had a blast that evening. It was Christmas, I was with family, and we were safe," Little recalled. "I remember the sky the next day was an incredibly deep blue and I was able to get home—when just 24 hours earlier the blizzard winds made it impossible to see across the street."
"But, the whole story comes down to the realization that I need to be grateful and thankful for the love of family and the kindness of strangers," he said.
Marshall Snider, The Docket’s resident travel editor, has had many adventures overseas during the holidays. One year, he and his wife were on the Samoan island of Savai’i staying at a beach house.
"We tried to cobble together something that looked like a holiday dinner," Snider said. "Of course, the village store did not carry turkeys, but chickens were everywhere. We also wanted a lime for cooking (or we were trying to make margaritas, I forget which). We were informed that limes were not grown or sold on the island, but as we left the village store we spotted a lime on the floor. We bought it; our own Christmas miracle lime."
That same year, they were invited to the village Christmas party. Christmas trees were decorated with canned goods—tins of tuna, salmon, and baked beans hung from the trees—and partiers were free to take whatever they needed.
They spent a different Christmas in the Australian Outback, where temperatures topped 104 degrees. It was particularly surprising for them to witness the local radio station drop Santa Claus into town by helicopter. He was in his full suit, despite the heat, passing out gifts to children.
"It was really interesting to see how people in places far from home, who didn’t have a lot of materials things, were still able to put together a wonderful holiday celebration with lots of family and friends," Snider said. "We felt lucky enough to be a part of their tradition."
Mike Shea served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Blackhawk medevac pilot and did a tour of duty as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps. He spent his holiday in 1972 aboard the USS Tripoli, which had been cruising off the coast of Vietnam. They were sent to Hong Kong for rest and relaxation for the holidays.
With irregular mail and no Skype or satellite phones, he got a surprising greeting when he got on the line with his mother.
"I hadn’t talked to anyone at home for months, and when I got to call home my mother said, ‘The good news is that your brother is alive. The bad news is that your car is totaled, but they did manage to save the tires,’" Shea recalled. "I had let my younger brother borrow my 1968 blue MGB while I was gone. I was just glad he was alive. What I learned later, after returning home, was that sometimes miracles do happen. Someone was looking out for him that day."
In 2007, Shea found himself again on duty during the holidays. This time, he was stationed at Camp Adder in Iraq.
"We didn’t have a Christmas tree, but we had pallets of great goodies from the folks at home," Shea said. "In fact, your generosity was so great that we didn’t have room to store all the shipments, so we celebrated by sharing with our coalition colleagues from Australia, Nigeria, Great Britain, Germany, and a host of other countries. They couldn’t believe the tremendous support that the U.S. forces were getting from home."
When former Colorado Bar Association President John Moye has his family—all 16 children, step-children and their spouses, as well as their 16 children—over for the holidays, it’s a whimsical affair.
"As soon as it gets dark, we have a horse-drawn sleigh with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus come to the house (two very good friends of ours who dress up in Santa costumes). In the sleigh are presents for all of the grandchildren (some of whom are old enough to know about the reality of Santa Claus, but are hedging their bets because he still brings presents for them)," Moye said. "The children then take turns riding in the sleigh with Mr. and Mrs. Santa around the park behind our house so they can have some private time with Santa."
Naturally, some of the older kids ask challenging questions of him, Moye said, like why Santa brings a sleigh drawn by horses instead of reindeer, and how he can manage to spend so much time with them on his busiest night of the year. But, after some fun and several turns around the park, Santa finally waves to all of them as he disappears back into the park and shouts, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night."
Thanks to everyone who generously shared their holiday memories and traditions with us. We wish you and your families best of holidays and that you can spend it with family and friends. D
Mary Dilworth is a marketing consultant for Colorado Bar Association CLE and other legal organizations. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.