This is what I’m remembering: It was in the mid-1990’s, when we were living in Leland, and I left David and a visiting friend in the living room with the half-decorated tree to drive to Traverse City, where my son was arriving by bus from Kalamazoo. It was a cold and wild night—not just storm “warnings” but a full-blown blizzard in process. The bus station, it turned out, was closed, and the bus from Kalamazoo was late. Waiting passengers with tickets, dropped off by friends and relatives at the start of their journey, stood out in the cold, stomping like restless cattle to keep their feet from freezing, their faces turned away from the wind. I joined the herd to wait with them.
One young couple captured my attention. Everything about their hair and the way they were dressed said they were hippies from the late 1960’s, but it was obvious they hadn’t even been born that long ago. The boy had amazing quantities of hair. The girl wore a very large shawl draped over her head and held a baby, wrapped in blankets, tightly against her body. They were a quiet family but smiled at each other and anyone who met their gaze. On Christmas Eve, they made an unforgettable picture, evocative of that other couple so long ago.
The bus arrived, my son descended, departing passengers boarded, and Ian and I started north—my return trip and the last leg of his journey. It was the most frightening drive of my life. (David says that of his turn at the wheel on the first of this very month, this year). The road ahead of me was hidden by swirling snow much of the time. Where was that road, anyway? Traffic was nonexistent, so there were no taillights to follow. The last S-curves on M-22 south of Leland, between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau, were the worst. Even now, I never drive that stretch of road south-to-north without recalling that night, when I feared swerving inadvertently off the road and being plunged through the ice, taking my only child with me.
Yes, we made the journey safely and finished decorating the tree. But all these years later, I still wonder about that little family at the bus station. Where were they going? What became of them? Thinking of them brings to mind all the struggling young families around the world, so disproportionately affected by war, famine, disease, political upheaval—by all that is difficult in the world.
Some people say that anything human beings can imagine can be made real. Usually they say this in terms of technology. What about peace on earth? What if we all imagined that tonight?