I was driving to Christmas brunch in a gray, icy cold morning. My mood matched the weather. In an effort to cajole myself into a more festive outlook I turned on the radio to Christmas carols. Not surprisingly, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” was playing.
I did chuckle a bit as I recalled a family story involving my grandfather and the well-loved crooner. Years before marriage and family they roomed at the same Spokane, Washington boarding-house. Being young and single, they became drinking buddies. Many years later my grandfather told his youngest daughter about some of their adventures.
One night in particular they had both gotten plastered but managed to drive home without incident. They had a terrible time trying to get out of the car. The world seemed more difficult to navigate than when they had climbed in. They stumbled upstairs and slept it off. The next day they found they had parked the car half on the high curb, half on the street, leaving the vehicle at a steep angle.
What I wasn’t ready for was Bing Crosby to choose that moment to show up in my passenger seat. My first response was, “Really?” as I had about four hours of sleep the night before and usually shut down as much as possible before attending family events. Also I had never encountered Crosby in spirit before, so why now?
Bing calmly remarked, “You know, your grandfather was good man.” This was consistent with everything I had ever heard about the grandfather I had never met. It convinced me my overtired brain was not making Crosby up.
Since “White Christmas” was still playing on the radio I asked if Bing had ever met my great-grandparents. My late Mom and her sisters had known Poppa but his wife had died a few months before my mother’s birth. Had my grandfather invited Bing to his family Christmas back when they had hung out? I was disappointed when Bing replied, “No. I was invited one year, but I chose to accept the invitation of another friend. Now I wish I had gone.” He said my grandfather had often spoken of his parents warmly.
I wanted to know more about my great-grandmother especially but Bing couldn’t share what he had not experienced.
The last thing Bing said to me was to hang in there, that things were going to going to get better in my life. Then he did a very Irish thing. He leaned over from the passenger seat and chastely kissed my cheek before fading away. It was immensely comforting and reminded me of a distant cousin who had told me at my grandmothers grave years earlier that he was, “Sorry for your troubles,” another deeply Irish gesture that covered all bases at a really rough time in my life.
Like all great performers, Crosby’s timing could not have been better. I pulled up to the family home a few minutes later, but I had already received the best possible Christmas gift.
(c) Lynne Sutherland Olson 2013. All Rights Reserved.