And so we sit upon our snow-covered porch, drinking mulled cider, wrapped in blankets, shawls, coats and mufflers. Our breath issues forth in cheerful white clouds. The little ones scuffle in the snow nearby, but their playfulness is of an excited, distracted sort, and they are ready to drop it at a moment’s notice. Rebecca, the quiet one, refrains from the roughhousing and stands quietly at my side, a vision of perfect pink in earmuffs.
“Is it true?” asks Rebecca, for this is her first year, and she cannot quite believe it. She will see. “Is it true that he’s coming?”
“GAAARGLEWAAAH! Ah ha! Ha. Ha.” interjects Brian, who hasn’t been the same since the carpentry accident. We ignore it, but it is a happy, festive, holiday sort of ignoring, meant in the spirit of good cheer.
I smile and am about to respond to Rebecca’s winsome question when hard-drinking Uncle Ted jovially cuts me off. “I dunno!” says Uncle Ted, between sips of his eighth Brandy Old-Fashioned. “Have you been good this year?”
“Hush, Ted,” I say. Then I crouch near little Rebecca and look her earnestly in her very blue eyes. “It’s all true, Rebecca. He comes every year to this house. Without fail.”
“Unca Ted said that Grandma used to call him, somehow,” said Rebecca, inexplicably using the word “somehow,” which is odd for a child of her age. And now I am close to being overcome with emotion, for this is our first year without her. I look around and half-expect to see her wheelchair every time I look at the family. Mom and Dad and Brian and Ted and the Rachel and Billy and the twins and Becca and Olaf and Sue. The entire Kurchberger clan. Save one.
I swallow hard, my smile not faltering. “Oh, Becca,” I say, the emotion clogging up my throat. “It is true that your grandmother would sing and dance and play the tambourine these nights of the first snow and sing her loud tribal hymns until the police had to be called.” I playfully ruffle little Becca’s hair, or at least, as best as I can ruffle it given the stern and unyielding dividing line of the band of her otherwise fluffy and pink earmuffs. “But that never called the Plow That Knocks the Damn Mailbox Down Every Year! Grandma was just… excited. And a little drunk. Oh, Becca, if you could have seen it!”
“So… the Plow That Knocks the Damn Mailbox Down Every Year will come… anyway? Even without Grandma?”
“Becca,” I say, “there are some things in this world that show up every year about this time in our holiday season, unfailingly and universally. Truth, Love, Joy, Happiness, and Good Cheer All the World Over. And so too will come the Plow That Knocks the Damn Mailbox Down Every Year.” I chuckle. “I mean, they don’t call it the Plow That Knocks the Damn Mailbox Down Some Years, do they?”
“But… Joy and Happiness and all that good stuff… it’s not universal! It’s not! There are people that hurt terribly! People who are deceived! People in pain, suffering and need! They don’t just go away! If we can’t trust in that, how can we trust in the Plow That Knocks the Damn Mailbox Down Every Year?”
She is a bright child. Innocence fades so quickly nowadays. But at least, this year, her faith will be rewarded. Because… yes, I can see it now. The yellow flashing light of the Plow That Knocks the Damn Mailbox Down Every Year, making its way up Terwilliger Street, just barely visible within the curtain of falling snow.
“You raise a number of good and mature points,” I say to Becca. “We will speak on them later, I promise. But for now… look.”
And I raise one bemittened hand. She follows with her eyes, which promptly go bright and wide not a moment later.
“The plow!” she cries, jumping up and down in unbridled joy. “The Plow That Knocks the Damn Mailbox Down Every Year! It’s coming! It’s really coming!”
Like geese, or meerkats, we all look up, straining to see as the light inches closer and closer and closer. There it is: the rusted, yellow-painted bulk of the Plow That Knocks the Damn Mailbox Down, Every, Every Year. In the fullness of time, like a majestic advancing glacier, it makes its way here to 4623 Terwilliger; and in glorious completion, it strikes. The noise it makes when the metal of the box impacts the shining blade of the plow is like a bright chord of music, and the mailbox goes sailing like an angel in flight.
It is beautiful. I spare a moment to look around at my clan and there is not a dry eye to be seen. Because this was a real quality hit, a great one for Becca to remember as her first.
Grandma, I think, would have loved it.