>Best Laid Plans

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I had everything figured out… I had started to prepare for the holidays early this year… and I was ready to go one month ahead of time… My Brother’s family was here for the month of November and they were also supposed to be here right before the New Year… This was going to be one great Holiday Season. But just as the family gathered together for Thanksgiving it became apparent that my parents had to fly back to Istanbul right after Thanksgiving. Oh well… Two down… three more to go…

I decided we had to get a little bit of Christmas that weekend, before everyone dispersed back to their own lives. Gift shopping was concluded – this year they were all meant to be meaningful, funny, and modest gifts. A little tree was put up and decorated, and the kids were pestered until they agreed to go along with my plan and try to show a little spirit. Over the Thanksgiving weekend we had our pre-Christmas morning gift exchange hoopla. Presents were unwrapped and lots of pictures taken.  I have been giving monthly calenders with family photographs as New Year’s presents for the past 15 years to all the older members of the family and I think it is probably the single most appreciated gift by everyone.  The original idea was to give grandparents 12 months of joy but now these calenders have turned into a visual review of the previous year.  As kids grow up, graduate, get married and have children of their own, I get more and more wonderful material to work with.

This year we had a theme for the Uygur calenders… hats (each side of the family gets their own specialized version of the family calender)

Our precious Prometheus has a hat that makes him look cute as a button.  I first thought that we would do a ‘grandpa and me’, then a ‘cousins’ theme but pretty soon, I found myself buying half a dozen hats and it turned into a ‘Prometheus the trend-setter’ motif. The results were a lot of fun… We might have gone a little overboard with the hat theme though since there are very few pictures of Pro without one…

As of December 1st, everyone had gone back and Mehmet, Murat and I were the only ones left behind.  I was still enthusiastic because in one month Cenk, Wendy and Pro would be back in New York.  I went on with my preparations for a wonderful Holiday Season.  For people who don’t actually have a holiday to celebrate around this time of year, Turks have come up with a very creative alternative – celebrate New Year’s.  We do this by getting a tree and presents, even having a Turkey dinner.  Since the pressure of getting the calenders ready in time and gift shopping were already off my shoulders, I could concentrate on other things I planned to do like decorating my office and writing Holiday greeting letters to my tenants, family and friends.

I am probably one of the worst procrastinators, every year I know when New Year’s eve will arrive, yet  I still wait till the last minute to do all my preparations; which is why this year was such a refreshing surprise.  For the first time, I had enough time to spread the joy.  I wrote my end of year letters and sent them out to family and friends, I had the time to remember and reach further out to other relations I don’t usually get a chance to keep in contact with. Just as the season was winding down and we were starting to make plans for New Year’s Eve, I got news that Wendy and Prometheus were not going to be able to make it to New York, and my brother would be flying back to Los Angeles on the 31st.  To say we were disappointed would be an understatement.  Just so we wouldn’t be sitting at home, bleakly watching Turkish television as a diversion on New Year’s Eve, I looked into getting plane tickets to Istanbul.  Unfortunately, it was very costly to fly a family of four overseas during the holidays and get back in enough time for Murat to not miss school. I was a little disappointed but had the consolation of knowing my brother was going to be in New York for the week and was planning to spend all day with us on Sunday.  But mother nature intervened with this plan as well; we knew there was a blizzard coming and had to suggest that Cenk leave early so he wouldn’t get stuck on the road to New York. Even this visit was cut short but we were warm at home, stocked up with firewood, waiting to watch a beautiful snow storm.

This was also not meant to be… Around 7.00pm, I got a call from one of my tenants, an emergency medical service, that the parking lot wasn’t plowed and they couldn’t get their ambulance out.  After not being able to find anybody to answer my calls, I realized I had no choice but to go out there myself and try to see what I could do to help…
This is how our family adventure began…. The four of us, Mehmet, the boys and I, got in the car after we loaded the snowblower in the back of the SUV and started an hour long arduous journey to West Long Branch.  All along the way, cars were getting stuck in the road and visibility was getting worse and worse.  When we finally arrived at my place of business, it was impossible to enter the parking lot so we had to park on the side of the highway.  The boys took down the snowblower from the back of the car, while I started trudging my way through knee-deep snow, only to find the building deserted.  It appeared the ambulance had made it out… but would we?  Hasan and Murat tried to clear a path so that at least two tires could pass through but it was obvious that this was useless since the tracks were filling up faster than they could clear them.  The walk back to the car was even harder since we had to fight a whirlwind of snow blowing in our face, blinding us.

By the time we got the snowblower back in the car and were ready to go, the conditions had gotten simply atrocious, with no visibility what so ever and the only way Mehmet could proceed was by Hasan and I hanging out the window to see the tracks on the road to guide him through blindly.  He finally decided to turn back and check into the hotel down the road for the night.  Getting to the hotel which was 2 minutes away took about half an hour, the whole road was scattered with cars quickly getting buried.  We had to leave our car somewhere near the entrance and walk the rest of the way to the hotel.    We were finally safe and warm…

The next morning, dawned bright and cold.  Our car had to be dug out first, which took four guys with shovels to accomplish. Since the highway was completely at a standstill because every other car would get stuck at a certain point and had to be rescued, we had to wait for another two hours before we could get on the road.

The sight that greeted us as we made our way through the aftermath of the blizzard was abandoned and buried vehicles everywhere.  Even plow trucks were stuck and had to be towed out of the mounds of snow.

 At one point, it felt like we were in a labyrinth, wherever we turned the roads were closed, blanketed with 2 feet of white powder.  Just when we thought we were safely on our way, we would meet another roadblock.

Finally, through my husband’s heroic maneuvering we reached Route 537, a road that was actually open and were on our way home.  It was interesting to observe, how the closer we got to Colt’s Neck, quite an affluent area, the roads were being plowed by three trucks in a row at the same time till we could actually see the asphalt in some areas.

We finally made it to our warm and cozy home where we could recuperation from our big adventure…as soon as the driveway was cleared to let the car in, of course…
My sons and husband were real live heroes throughout out this whole ordeal and I was so proud to call them my own…

So, now we sit at home, waiting for the roads to be cleared and life to go back to normal, grateful to be safe and sound.  It turns out there was no way for Wendy and Pro to get to New York in this weather anyway even if their plans hadn’t changed already.  As far as our plans to travel abroad, that would also have been an impossibility.  Basically Mehmet, Hasan, Murat and I are where we were meant to be, awaiting the arrival of the New Year, only with a greater presence of mind.  This little drama we have lived through feels like a little reminder in the value of home and family and the fecklessness of trying to control fate.
This also makes me revisit the philosophy of Epictetus that I am usually in accord with – There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.  At this point, I am happily sitting and waiting to see what wonderful new surprises each day will bring.

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