For part 1 click this link: https://maryajensenwrites.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/an-unplanned-christmas-part-1/
They had continued in silence for hours before his mother drove up to the gas pumps at a small town convenience store, but it was closed. He didn’t understand why she hadn’t used a credit card like Gram would have, but instead she pulled out and drove on until she came to the next town. She found the gas station there closed too. At the third station she had pulled off the road into a jumble of trees. There his mother had passed out.
When Joni woke up Jason had tried to get out but the inside handles had been broken off and he was unable to open the door. He feared that if he made any noise he would wake his mother. It had started to snow and the car was even colder than before. He was afraid. He knew they were going to freeze to death.
At first Joni was excited as she had watched the flakes fall like icy petals as they floated to the ground. Then the flakes stopped falling as abruptly as they had begun. Then Joni cried, “I’m hungry, I’m cold.” She had already eaten his orange and his candy cane, but she wanted to save hers to share with Gram. He couldn’t tell her they may not ever see Gram again. They had snuggled together, half sleeping, half crying until traffic started to pick up along the road.
Jason knew he had to do something. He finally reached over and wrote “HELP” in the fog on the street side window. But it was still dark and they were tucked into the trees and traffic traveling by could not see it. He tried not to cry. He was eleven years old and boys his age weren’t supposed to cry. But tears rolled down his cheeks as he hugged his little sister.
Their breathing soon steamed up the window and obliterated his cry for help.
He must have fallen asleep. The next thing he knew the car was moving. His mother no longer seemed so wild eyed as she drove into the gas station, got out and pumped gasoline into the car. A car pulled up beside them and stopped. He heard a car door slam but he couldn’t really see out of their fogged up windows. He couldn’t get out and he knew this was his one chance to get help. He once again leaned across the seat and wrote “HELP” on the window in the fog. He couldn’t see the people in the car that had pulled up but he waved frantically until his mother turned around and he had to quit so she wouldn’t see him. He wiped as much of the fog away as he could, on his side, and waited for his mother to go in and pay for her gas. He was going to climb over the seat, open the door and yell for help. But a store attendant came out and took her money. They talked awhile before she crawled into the car and waited for him to bring her change.
As she started the engine and began to drive away he knew that there was no help for them here. He held Joni tighter. He dried her face with his sleeve while his own tears burned his cheeks. He didn’t speak to his mother and she didn’t speak to them. Everything seemed so helpless that he didn’t bother to look ahead or behind. He just stared at the back of his mother’s head her tangled hair barely touching the headrest of her seat. He wanted to scream. He wanted to beat the back of the seat. He wanted to hit his mother over the head. But he didn’t want to scare Joni any more than she already was. So he just stared.
Suddenly the car began to slow. At first he didn’t realize what the flashing lights were. Then he could see it. A patrol car was blocking their way. He felt their car shift into reverse. The car hadn’t moved far in that direction before he felt it hit something. A second set of lights were flashing behind them.
He grabbed Joni and held her face against her chest so that she couldn’t see what happened next. But he watched. He watched everything.
Four officers appeared, each with guns drawn. One ordered, “Get out. Put your hands above your head.” He watched as his mother got out and the officers pulled her hands behind her back and fastened hand cuffs around her wrists. He felt disconnected from the scene. It was as if he were watching Law and Order on TV.
Later when he remembered the scene it was as if everything had happened in slow motion. A young officer bearing a Teddy bear had pried the door open on their side of the car. He looked at Jason, smiled and asked, “Are you okay?” and then he said, “I guess you are too old for this, right?”
Jason had only nodded. Joni reached for the toy as Jason handed her to the officer. They were wrapped in blankets and placed in the back of one police car while their mother was put in another. A woman who reminded Jason of his grandmother had crawled in beside them. She told him that her name was Mrs. Bell. She asked their names. She told Jason how brave he had been. He learned that his writing on the window had alerted the people in the next car that there was a problem. They had told the station attendant, who had alerted the authorities. That was why the attendant had come out and taken his mother’s money instead of waiting for her to come in. That was how the attendant had delayed her. Mrs. Bell assured Jason that his grandmother was on her way and would be there as soon as she could get there.
While they waited for Gram, Mrs. Bell took them home with her. The house was quiet as they entered except for the voice of a young girl reading the Christmas story. Jason listened intently to every word.
That was the day that Jason grew up. He realized that Christmas wasn’t about the Xbox under the Christmas tree but about people who loved and cared about each other whether they knew them or not. It was about people who would put your safety and security before their own. It was about people who would make real sacrifices for others. It was about a gift so big that it was almost beyond his comprehension.