History

The Christmas When Charlie Got Stuck in the Snow

It’s funny how things that seem so ordinary to us can be extraordinary for others. For most of us, having a car ride end with being stuck in the snow would register as an inconvenience. For Charlie, it is one of his fondest Christmas memories.

Charlie was ten years old that Christmas season of 1958. When his mother asked him if he wanted to go for a ride, he immediately said yes. His enthusiasm was understandable. Both of his parents were professionals with full-time jobs. The boy craved opportunities to spend quality time with them. A pleasant drive through the countryside would give him some rare one-on-one time with his mother.

As the car made its way down the road, Charlie could see the snow on the tree branches. The wide open spaces were in such contrast to the city he claimed as his home. He was enjoying the prospect of a white Christmas, and he was certainly having fun on this impromptu excursion with his mom.

He doesn’t remember how long he looked out the car’s window. As with all 10-year-old boys, his thoughts raced from one thing to another until something happened to end his daydreaming. The car suddenly hit a patch of ice and slid into a snowbank. Both mother and son were startled, but fortunately, no one was hurt and the car was undamaged. When his mom stepped on the gas, however, they remained stationary. The wheels turned, but they spun vainly on the icy surface.

Charlie knew what had to be done. Without being asked, he opened the door and got behind the car to push. Despite his best efforts, his small, skinny physique was more than overmatched by the pile of snow that held the car captive. They were definitely stuck, and it was going to take more muscle than he brought to the table to get that car to move.

“Don’t worry,” his mother reassured him. She said there was a house nearby. They could walk there and call for help. Leaving the car on the side of the road, mother and son tramped through the snow to the house and knocked on the door. Fortunately, the residents were home. They urged Charlie and his mother to come inside, use their telephone, and make themselves comfortable while they waited for help to arrive.

If you were looking for drama in this story, you’re going to be disappointed. They didn’t knock on the door of a serial killer. The people were quite pleasant and helpful. They weren’t famous. They were ordinary, normal, and decent folks. When help arrived, the car was unstuck easily enough, and it wasn’t long before Charlie and his mother were back at home, safe and sound.

It sounds so ordinary. It’s all very normal. Why on earth would that ordinary, normal incident be one of Charlie’s favorite Christmas memories? Perhaps it is because ordinary and normal were so extraordinary and abnormal in Charlie’s life.

Although the people who answered the knock at the door that day were ordinary and normal, those who did the knocking were not. When they welcomed a stranded mother and her son into their home, they were lending assistance and shelter to Queen Elizabeth II and her son, the future King Charles III.

Source: Aurandt, P., & Harvey, P. (1983). Destiny: And 102 other real-life mysteries. Morrow.


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