Before I tell this story, remember that once there was a time when everyone was not deeply attentive to personal safety and that some risks seemed to make sense. We probably ALL did things in our youth which would horrify modern mothers, or at least compel them to gasp “And you did that without wearing a helmet?” (Sure! Doesn’t everyone?)
My brother Karl and I grew up in a town where winter began about Halloween and didn’t really go away until Memorial Day. By the beginning of December the large lake near where we lived would be frozen over, and by Christmas, it was usually frozen hard enough for cars to drive on the ice. One Christmas afternoon in 1959 my Dad did what many Dads did. He picked up the new sled he got for Karl and me and we headed over to Lake Winnebago. He tied a large rope to the back end of the Plymouth’s bumper and the other to the sled. Then he began (slowly) driving. (Cue the frantic Moms: “you did WHAT? WITHOUT A HELMET?”)
Of course, we kids back on the sled loved it. I remember laughing and laughing and laughing, and I am guessing, but I think the top speed we ever hit was maybe 10 miles an hour. The lake is huge and flat so Dad could make a sharp turn to create a “crack the whip” effect and we LOVED IT. It was the best afternoon and we were flushed and deliriously happy. Until on one turn, Karl fell off.
And hit his head on the ice.
I don’t remember much of the story but my parents recounted it many times because I’m sure it was terrifying to them. There was no blood but they were worried about a concussion, especially when Karl began asking questions like “Whose presents are those?” and “When is Santa coming?” (He’d already been). Off they went to the hospital where they kept him overnight. I do have a very clear memory of my parents crying together at the kitchen table that Christmas night.
Karl was placed in a room with a boy his age, who was there having his tonsils out. The boy had flaming red hair, more freckles than anyone Karl had ever met, and he got to eat popsicles all the time. Soon they became fast friends, Karl recovered, the tonsillectomy patient went home, but it was a small town. Though they weren’t in elementary school together, they met up again in junior high and high school. John was my brother’s best man at his wedding, and Karl at his. They’ve been close for more than fifty years, a lifelong friendship that would be the envy of many.
Terrible things are as likely to happen at Christmas as they are on any ordinary day. Because of God’s love for us, we grow in love, family and friendship and are reminded that even where there is darkness, there is the light of Christ. My prayer is that no member of the Catholic Rural Life family is suffering with sadness or tragedy this Christmas, but if you are, remember how many people you’ve never even met care about you and are praying for you. God works in mysterious ways, his miracles to perform!
— Liese Peterson lives in Nevada with her husband and three swimming dogs. She is an international businesswoman and enjoys writing about her experiences as a convert to Catholicism.