It was this past winter break, a few days before Christmas. My grandmother’s car was broken down, but she needed to be at work by 7 a.m., so I offered to give her a ride. By this point I had already fallen back on my nocturnal sleep routine, so when I got up late in the afternoon I decided to just stay up to take her to work.
On the way to Grandma’s workplace, I made the mistake of riding in another driver’s blind spot on the freeway. He pulled into our lane, forcing me to swerve over into an “exit only” lane. Fortunately, because it was so early in the morning, there was no other traffic to interfere with, and I made it out of his way safely. Once he realized he’d cut me off, he waved to me in apology and let me back over before I was forced to exit.
Grandma works over in a huge retail development near a local mall. During the day, the place is overrun with people, especially during the holiday shopping season. But as we were driving through at 6 a.m., the place was deserted. All the businesses were closed, the parking lots were empty, and the traffic lights were even flashing yellow. Such a contrast to the madness I associated with the area…it was amazingly serene. I drove past a deserted Target store, with its parking lot empty and its Christmas lights gleaming, and I found myself wishing I’d had my camera with me.
By the time I got home, it was nearly 8 a.m., and I was wide awake. As I came in the house, Leroy Anderson’s original version of “Sleigh Ride” was looping itself in my head. I hummed it loudly to myself as I went around the house plugging in Christmas lights and watering the tree.
Soon after, my sister came downstairs to watch TV, so I retired to my bedroom in the basement. I watched an episode of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego—my fleeting obsession of the time—before finally relenting and going to bed.
Something about that morning felt good. It felt happy…the kind of happy that makes for bittersweet memories, because you know you’ll never be able to feel quite the same way again.