It was really starting to snow heavier now. I could barely make out the road and with dusk quickly approaching, my visibility was down to almost zero. I decided to pull off at the next exit and get off the Thruway because I needed to find a place to stay for the night and hopefully tomorrow the weather would be better and I could continue on my way.
The snow eased up a little as I drove into this very small town. Snow blanketed the scene before me. This late, no one was up and around. This little sleepy town looked like a picture that Norman Rockwell painted.
There was a center medium that was large enough so the people of the town had erected a huge Christmas tree. It was all decorated with multi-colored lights and with the falling snow layering itself on the tree made the lights look like twinkling stars that were under layers of clouds as they glowed their different colors.
Life size carolers holding song books were stationed on both sides of the tree. These were men, women, and a small child playing with a dog to complete the scene. In the one corner was a large stable that had a brilliant star on top. This star was so beautiful and lit up the night even with the snow falling. I stopped my car so that I could enjoy what I was seeing in this quiet sleeping town. Joseph was standing and watching as Mary was bending over a straw filled manger and laying the baby Jesus inside to sleep. Jesus was wrapped in a small blanket and His eyes were closed as if in a deep sleep that babies only can have.
There were cows and sheep directly behind the manager and some goats too were scattered in that stable. Outside shepherds and their sheep were standing in line as if to wait their turn to go in and see this amazing baby that was born to save our world. The star on top of the stable seemed to glow brighter as I was drawn in by the wondrous sight and this beautiful loving family.
There wasn’t a sound other than the quiet music that could be heard in the background coming from the area where the Christmas tree was located. I felt as if I had come upon a stage and all the actors had left. So serene, so quiet and moving, that I could feel tears welling in my eyes. This looked like how Christmas should be celebrated. Small towns, full of friends and family. Everyone happily bustling around getting all their Christmas holiday shopping done. At the end of the street was a small white church with a picket fence around it. The steeple had a bell that I am sure called all the town people in to celebrate their faith.
I got back into the car as the snow was starting to get heavier again and I was becoming very weary of driving. I was hoping to find a place to spend the night so that I could start out fresh in the morning and spend Christmas at home in my apartment with my cat Molly.
When I had almost given up hope of finding anything open, I spotted a small shop that was all decorated with colored lights and a flashing sign that said “PAPA’S AND MAMA’S SODA SHOP”. I pulled over and I was so relieved that maybe I would be able to get some help from whom ever was in that shop. When I opened the door a small bell tinkled. It appeared that no one was inside. It was like the soda shops that I had seen in pictures from long ago, a large counter with jars of different candies in them stood off to the side. Signs on the jars said 1cent apiece. In the middle of the counter there were stools and behind the counter all sorts of different sized dessert dishes were neatly stacked.
Still no one seemed to be around. “Hello! anyone here?” I said. I waited a minute and then said “Hello is there anyone here?” I sat down on a stool and just as I was starting to worry that maybe someone had gone home with out locking up I heard a rustling coming from the back of the store. I turned and to my surprise a heavy set man with a white beard and the bluest eyes I have ever seen. He looked like all the pictures I had ever seen of Santa Claus. His beard was whit and fluffy but very neatly trimmed. He had a wonderful smile and I felt immediately at ease. His eyes seemed to twinkle as I looked at them. It must have been the lighting in the store that gave them that effect.
He came up to the counter and asked me what I was doing out on such a bad night and I explained that I had been upstate on business and was trying to get home for Christmas when the storm suddenly hit and I was afraid to go any further tonight. I asked him if there was a motel that I might spend the night in and get some sleep so that I could start out fresh in the morning. I told him that I had started to get tired and scared as it got later and later and the storm seemed to be increasingly worse.
He quietly looked at me as he rubbed his chin. “Well, young lady, there isn’t a hotel or motel around these parts for quite away.” My heart sank at the thought of having to get back on that thruway and find somewhere to stay. He must have noticed my distress because he said, “Let me make a phone call and see what I can do for you.” He walked over to the phone and dialed a number, and smiled and winked at me as he turned away to talk to whom ever he had called.
“Hello, mama,” He said, “It seems I have a young lady here that is stranded in this storm and needs a place to stay and some food to eat.” He stood there listening as the person I assumed was mama talked to him. Then he nodded his head and again gave me a big smile as he hung up the phone.
“Well, young lady, my wife was very happy that I called and has told me to bring you home to stay with us for the night.” “They said on the radio that the storm will pass through tonight and tomorrow you should be able to continue on your way without any problems.”
I was cold, hungry and tired and so I gratefully accepted his offer for shelter. He told me to leave my car where it was and he would drive the short distance to his home.
I went to my car and took out my suitcase and overnight bag and he took them and put them in his truck. We talked as he drove and he told me stories of how the soda shop was his and mama’s dream. I listened with interest and before I knew it we have arrived at his home. There were no other houses around and no lights on the road that we were on but the house ahead was lit up like it was a Christmas tree. He helped me carry my bag in and I could feel the warmth as mama opened the door to greet us.
What a wonderful sight she was! She was jolly and had on a pretty green dress with a red apron. Her hair was snow white and she had the prettiest smile on her face as she hurried us into the house.
“Come, my child,” she said. “Papa will show you to the guest room and you can wash up and get out of those wet clothes. When you are done, come downstairs because I have dinner all ready and put out”
I came down the stairs and the house was full of delicious aromas. She met me at the dinning room door and showed me to my seat. I haven’t seen that much food in a long time. Since I was a young child and my parents and brothers and sisters all gathered together for Christmas. Since mom and dad both passed on everyone lives so far away that we very seldom see each other now. As far as Christmas, I am the only unmarried one so I spend my day alone at home. Mama came out of the kitchen with a huge platter and a succulent turkey sat on it steaming. There was mashed potatoes and salad. Papa brought in bowls of different vegetables and set them on the table. On the side board were two steaming apple pies and the cinnamon aroma filled the room. So many wonderful smells and two lovely and caring people.
The food was a feast and I thanked my hosts over and over for inviting me into their home and sharing this wonderful meal and giving me a room for the night. Mama brought coffee and apple pie into the living room and we all sat around by the glowing fireplace and ate our dessert. I felt like I belonged here. I have never met such lovely people.
As we talked, between the glowing warmth of the fire and all the food I ate, I started to doze off. I was so embarrassed and apologized for being rude. Mama and papa just smiled at me and said.” You have got to be exhausted young lady.” “Why don’t you go up to your room and get a good nights sleep?”
I was so grateful because I was extremely tired from the tedious drive and so I climbed back up the stairs and entered the guest room and changed into my nightgown, crawled under the down quilt and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next thing I felt was the warmth of the morning sun as it came through the window and shined into my eyes. I was completely rested and quickly washed and dressed, made the bed and straightened up the room and took my suitcases downstairs and left them by the front door.
I heard voice from the back of the house and so I wandered down the hall and papa and mama were at the kitchen table having their breakfast and coffee. That coffee smelled heavenly and mama got up and nodded for me to take a chair and put a plate of bacon and eggs and a big mug of fresh coffee in front of me. Everything smelled so good I ate like I was starving. They asked me how far I had to travel to be with my family today to spend Christmas with them and I told them all about how we were all spread out and me being the only unmarried one, I usually just stayed at my apartment and a few of my friends would stop in before they went to their families for a drink with me so that we could wish each other a Happy Holiday and exchange gifts with each other.
I explained that I had been on a business trio and on the way home when the storm hit. I told them that I lived in an apartment and would spend Christmas with my cat Molly. They both listened intently and then asked me if I would like to stay and spend the day with them and go home tomorrow. I graciously declined their offer and said that my friends would be worried about me if they came over and didn’t see me home. I explained that I really didn’t mind as I have been doing this for a few years now and I was used to being by myself with my cat, Molly. I usually watched the movie,” It’s a Wonderful Life” each year. I never got tired of James Stewart in that great movie classic.
Papa had somehow brought my car to their house and he helped me put my suitcases in the trunk. Mama came out of the house and handed me a big bag filled with food. “For the trip home”, She said. I tried to assure her that I would be fine, but she made me take the bag with me. Papa took me in his arms and gave me a big bear hug and I actually squeaked because he squeezed me so tightly. Mama laughed and came over and hugged and kissed me and told me to drive carefully.
I had about 50 miles to go before I would hit the city but the day was sunny and bright and I knew I would make good time and be home in about an hour. I followed the directions that papa had handed to me and found the main road into the center of town. This quiet and sedate town I had pulled into last night was full of people hustling and bustling. There was the huge Christmas tree and the carolers and the stable, just like it looked last night when I pulled in to town. As I rode down I looked to my right to take one last look at the soda store that saved me from an uncomfortable and scary night and that had been open when all the other places were closed.
But that Papa’s and Mama’s Soda Shop wasn’t there. On that corner was an empty lot. There was not sign that a soda shop
had ever been there. Instead it had a gazebo and benches scattered here and there on the lot. Christmas poinsettias were put in lovely arrangements by the gazebo and around the benches. In the gazebo there was soft music as a merry go round turned inside of the gazebo and the horses went up and down. I parked the car and got out to take a better look because I couldn’t believe my eyes. I walked on the path to the gazebo and watched as the merry go round turned and the music played. Just then a couple had come and where standing next to me and enjoying the scene too. I asked them if there was ever a soda shop on this corner before and they told me that yes it had been there for many years. The lady said that when she was a little girl she used to go there and have a soda and that papa and mama were the best people she had ever known. They always helped anyone in the town that needed help and never turned a child away that needed a place to stay. The man said that he had been a foster child of papa and mama and that he grew up knowing that he was loved. He said that after they passed on they left this land to the town and enough money to build this small park and they wanted it to be for the community to use. I just stood there and smiled at them and then thanked them for all their help and got back into my car. I knew if I went back to that road and drove down that home would not be there. Thanking them both I got back into my car and drove the rest of the way home.
After I had carried my suitcases in the apartment and put my things away I remembered about the bag that was on the back seat of the car. So I threw on my coat and went outside and brought the bag into the house. I opened the bag to put the food away and found that mama had packed large containers of turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a whole apple pie. There was a box of full of all different kinds of Christmas cookies too. At the very bottom of the bag was a box that was wrapped in Christmas paper and had a red bow on it. I set down on a chair and opened this small gift. Inside was a pair of gold earrings in the shape of Christmas trees. I noticed an ornament on each of the earrings and took a closer look. Then I smiled. On the one earring was a jolly man with a white beard and it said Papa on it and on the other was a jolly woman in a green dress with a red apron and on the bottom of that ornament it said Mama. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I have never told anyone about my night in that small town or the soda shop that was open on that stormy night because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. But every year since then I wear my gold Christmas earrings with my Papa and Mama ornaments on them.