ACH Study Groups
Ben & Fran Gilmore – Cofounders
7659 Gingerblossom Drive
Citrus Heights, CA 95621
December 21, 2015
This is a letter to our friends –
A Christmas Story
It was a bitter cold winter in Boston. The year was 1958. Our son Guy, was 18 months old. We had moved from Dallas to attend graduate school. Fran landed a job with an agency that operated a home for abused boys. The third floor was our home. Money was tight. School was intense.
Christmas was approaching. Fran, her sister and brother had established a wonderful tradition of making it home to grandma’s for Christmas. Each year added new stories to the event, as life developed with marriages, military assignments, and the like. Somehow everyone managed to synchronize and add one more year to the tradition.
We had saved enough gas money to drive our Plymouth station wagon to Dallas and back. Mattresses, blankets and food for the trip were carefully packed into the car. There was ample room to sleep comfortably and save on motel expenses. The evening had arrived and the three of us began our 1800 mile adventure with just enough time to arrive at grandma’s on Christmas eve.
It was dark and stormy, but thankfully the roads were clear. It was bitter cold. We passed New York City and were passing through New Jersey when our trusty vehicle decided to stop running. We contacted AAA road service. The tow truck driver asked where he could drop is off. We had no money for a motel. The driver parked our car inside the repair shop. We were grateful for a warm place to spend the night in the car inside the shop.
Next morning, we received the grand news that our engine was dead and must be replaced! It would take better than a week because of the holidays. No Christmas at Grandma’s this year! I don’t know which hurt more: That we would miss being there Christmas morning; or that the grandparents would miss Christmas with their first grand-child. What to do next?
Fran had introduced nursing student Eddie, to her cousin Bob. Bob and I were fellow Airforce pilots in Korea. Bob was stationed in Washington, D.C. They invited us to spend Christmas with them. The car shop dropped us at Newark Airport and we used our gas money to fly to Washington, D.C.
The phone call from Washington to Dallas was emotional! Lots of tears. The rest of the day was sad and gloomy. Bob mentioned something I had not heard, Diner’s Club had just begun offering airline tickets on credit. I had a little used Diner’s Club card! What the heck! We are going to be a year getting out of all this debt. Why not go all the way!
A late afternoon phone call informed us there were two flights that would get us to Dallas for Christmas morning. Both were booked full. We were on standby. Bob drove us to the airport. The first flight left without us. We were boarded on the second! No time for calls to Dallas.
We arrived at Love Field (DFW was not even dreamed of in ’58.) Rented a car – why not! It’s Christmas and we’re head over heels in debt now anyway! Fran’s folks’ house was unlocked when we arrived at two in the morning. We quietly made pallets on the floor under the Christmas tree.
Next morning before the house was awake, Fran’s brother and his wife arrived from across town. Whispered astonishment and greetings. They took baby Guy, tiptoed into the folks’ bedroom and put the sleeping baby between them. Minutes later, an explosion of joy! Fran’s sister Norma and husband Bob arrived and another Christmas at Grandma’s was complete!
We arrived in Boston, happy, driving a like new Plymouth. Sure enough we managed to pay off our credit card. The tradition continued for years until the folks’ passing. Our own family traditions were born. Now our kids are building theirs.
Christmas memories are made of things like this.