A Warning: This story isn't so much about me and/or spirituality, as it is about my sister and, well, Santa Claus.
But I'm telling it because, as far as I'm concerned, it's a modern Christmas miracle. And also, it's a Thank You.
Christmas is a really big deal at my house. A really big deal. But not in the way of presents (although they play an important part). Christmas at my house is about family, whether we like it or not, to the point where my sisters (two of them) and I call it Christmas Lockdown. From mid-afternoon on the 23rd to mid-afternoon on the 26th, we are on Christmas Lockdown.
There will be no leaving the house.
There will be no friends over.
There will be no watching TV in an individual bedroom, unless accompanied by all other members of the family (including dogs).
There will be no phone calls longer than absolutely necessary.
And there will be no "I'm not hungry."
While we grumble and complain and make fun of it more often than not, it's still my family, and it's still Christmas, and it's still something that I look forward to every year.
Until this year.
This year, three things happened:
1. My office did not close for the week between Christmas and New Years.
2. I failed to save vacation days on the off-chance they wouldn't.
3. All Airlines that fly to or in the vicinity of Vancouver, Canada, decided to charge an abominable amount to fly to and from New York on the 21st and the 25th.
All of which resulted in me staying in New York for Christmas.
My middle sister, Stefanie, lives in LA, and she made the most magnanimous decision that if she was going to fly anywhere for Christmas, she'd be flying to New York to make sure I was not alone. (Don't worry, Mom! We had our own Christmas Lockdown planned. It involved just as little leaving the house, just as much food, and the Complete First Season DVD Box Set of Heroes, which I highly recommend.)
Cut to Wednesday, December 19, LAX, two hours prior to my sister's flight taking off. She's got her awesome little dog Max, and she's stuck in an embarrassingly long security lineup. By the time she finally gets to the gate, it's 5 minutes prior to take-off.
The sign says: Gate Closed.
The airline person says: Sorry, Ma'am, the flight is still here, but I've given your seat away. Your luggage is on the plane, and I can't help you.
My sister says: It's not that you can't help me. It's that you won't help me.
And storms away.
At which point she calls me, crying, and tells me that our Christmas Lockdown is off.
I tell her to call the airline, get in line, and do whatever it takes because I've signed up for Netflix solely in preparation for our Christmas Lockdown, and I am sure as hell not watching 24 hours of Heroes on my own. Also, she's my sister, and I love her.
So my sister calls the airline, and gets in line. The airline tells her that, sorry, there are no flights, and if there were flights, they would have to charge her the fare difference, which, as it is the day of, would be upwards of $1300. The line tells her that it's going to be a very long line.
So she cries. She sits on the floor of the airport (still in line), with her aforementioned and still awesome dog, Max, and cries. She stays on the phone with the airline, hoping, begging, for a flight to New York.
And that's when the man in front of her turns around, and says, "Hang up the phone."
Now, if you know my sister, you know that you might not want to mess with her when she's just missed her flight to NY for Christmas, and she's sitting on the floor of an airport with her little dog, Max, and she's simultaneously crying and screaming into a cell phone. But this is no ordinary man.
He repeats, slower this time. "Hang. Up. The. Phone."
My sister glares at him. "Um. I'm on the phone with the airli-."
"I know who you're talking to. And I said, hang up the phone."
So, she hangs up. (Let this be a testament to my sister's good faith, because I'm pretty sure I'd have turned all my missed-flight / hating the airline wrath on his poor soul, and let me tell you, the story would have ended a little differently.)
And the man says, "Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
My sister looks at him with lowered lashes from her red-rimmed green eyes and says, "No."
And the man looks at her, and he smiles, and he says, "Well, you should. Because you're going to New York, and you're going to see your sister. I have two daughters, and I can't think of anything worse than the two of them being alone on Christmas. And, honestly, I have more air miles than I'll be able to spend in a lifetime. So, you're going to New York. I've been on the phone with the airline, and there is one seat left on the red-eye." At this point he's at the counter, and he hands the representative his card, and he says, "Book this girl on the red-eye to New York." And walks away.
My sister runs after him, grabs his arm, says, "But wait, who are you?"
And he says, "Fred. I'm Fred. But you can call me Santa Claus."
And I'd like to be able to end the story here, and say that he walks away, into the crowds, never to be seen again. But that's not true. My mother taught us to write thank-you cards, always, so my sister grilled him and got his full name and address, (which I am leaving out, because as much as I love internet infamy, Santa "Fred" Claus may not) and then he walked away.
But, my sister made it to New York. And we had our Christmas Lockdown, and we opened our presents (under our poinsettia / sole Christmas decoration), and we watched our Heroes (all 24 hours of them), and we ate ourselves silly, and we had the Best Christmas Ever.
So, thank you, Fred, if you're out there, for being our Christmas Miracle.
And to everyone else, if you're like me, and you don't believe in much, let me tell you one thing: If there's something to believe in, it's Santa Claus. And that miracles do happen.