It wasn't quite a Christmas miracle.
We spent last Saturday early evening at the Santa Cruz Bible Church Santa Cruz'n Christmas, a fun Christmas event that included oxen and lamb keeping time (kind of -- a donkey and lamb actually), an old school Jerusalem village complete with Roman soldiers and a real baby Jesus, carriage rides, cider and hot chocolate, arts and crafts for the kids, baby Jesus black-light puppet show and Santa.
Yes, Santa. They know how to wrangle in the infidels, don't they.
We were having a grand old time until we lost Beatrice. We had finished in one of the crafts rooms and headed out a side door of the building that read "emergency exit only."
Click. There's Daddy, the Mama and baby Bryce -- but where's Bea?
I checked the door but it was locked. I looked through the window and didn't see her among the throngs of people.
"Where's Bea?" I called to the Mama.
She glanced around quickly, shrugged and I panicked. I ran around the building, one of many on this expansive church property, and shot back inside frantically (but cooly) searching out our elder B.
And there she was, a little rattled but intact, holding the hand of a nice lady who said she saw us walk away from Bea and out the side door, leaving her inside by herself.
A proud moment indeed. I kicked myself mentally as I held Bea's hand and guided her back outside to the Mama and Bryce.
Back together again we headed through Old Jerusalem on the way to our car to go home. When we loaded everyone in the car, one of Bryce's shoes was missing. Night had fallen but the Mama was determined to find it, reminding me how nice the shoes were and how she didn't want to have to get new ones. I'm really glad I didn't say, "Leave it. Let's go. We can get more baby shoes." Thankfully she found it.
But neither of these were the "not quite" Christmas miracle I'm referring to. No, that happened on the way home from the event.
I slowed our Saturn VUE as the light turned green, about 30 feet from the intersection. I proceeded across, the Mama turning back to give Beatrice her water cup, and then the pickup turned left and hit us head on.
Surreal. Unreal. Quick.
I braked. The pickup braked. The impact was slow but -- smack -- we all felt it.
I didn't hear anything. I didn't hear the Mama yelling at me. I didn't hear Bryce crying.
I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that the truck hit us. At this point I could see that it was a young woman driving the truck, in her early twenties maybe.
And she looked as if she were crying hysterically --
"KEVIN, GET OUT OF THE INTERSECTION! PULL OVER! GET OUT OF THE STREET!"
The Mama's voice rocked me back to life, as if the kinetic energy from the impact had a delayed effect and only now did I absorb it.
I pulled over, we calmed the young woman down, Mama gave her a big hug and we exchanged insurance information. The impact seemed minimal to both vehicles. Mama finally quieted Bryce. Beatrice seemed giddy, even a little maniacal.
But the shaky image of the young woman crying and apologizing to us, telling us she was from out of the area, that her cell phone was dead, that her pickup was now leaking some kind of fluid -- that image became a future glimpse one of my daughters accidentally running into a family of four coming back from a church Christmas event, and that we wouldn't be there to help her.
It wasn't quite a Christmas miracle, but it sure put life's fast-forward view-finder in perspective.
Merry Christmas. Hold your kids close. Amen.