By Mary Nicotera
It was Christmas Day, 1977. I was a young woman with a great apartment in the village of Hamburg. We lived above a maintenance business and between a bowling alley and the movie theater, meaning we could literally hear the faint sounds of bowling balls on one side and movie soundtracks on the other.
My sister, Pam, and her best friend, Faye, shared the apartment with me. Oh, how we loved it there and appreciated the unique quirks that made it special.
The custom was for the extended family to gather at my parents’ home in nearby North Boston on Christmas Day. Dad would build a giant makeshift table out of plywood, boards and whatever he could scrounge from the basement. We were charged with transforming that primitive table into a sparkling masterpiece.
After a day of way too much food and just as much yuletide jubilation, I made plans to visit a boyfriend.
Back in those days, there were no cellphones or weather radar apps at our fingertips. But I was not intimidated by unpredictable weather in the Boston hills; I was a proud Blizzard of ’77 survivor! I packed my car with gifts, called to let my date know I was on my way, and headed much further up the hills and into the night. And for the first half of the trip, I was whistling happy Christmas tunes.
An occasional swirl of wind and light snow initially taunted, but that was little challenge for this country girl. Then, as I reached the crest, I was suddenly driving in intense and unrelenting whiteouts. Fierce wind and snow proved disorienting. Soon this confident woman was lost in the abyss far off the road and stuck in 3 feet of snow. In a cornfield. I was stranded alone on a hill and in the dark on a blustery, cold Christmas night. I was petrified.
After a few moments of panic, I crawled out the window and trekked toward the tiny lights in the distance. It was incredibly frigid and a tough go, but after about 15 minutes a car of “angels” miraculously appeared. Three attractive young men were attempting to make their way back to the Northtowns after a day of skiing. They took one look at my hopelessly buried car and knew they couldn’t help.
As the weather worsened, I jumped in their car and we headed back down the hill. We spotted neon lights of an open bar, and moments later I was the sole woman in a saloon full of festive, plaid-flanneled men. I used the pay phone to update my boyfriend.
Overhearing my plight, the burliest man offered to take me back up the hill to try to tow my little car out with his big, beastly truck. A small army of determined, slightly inebriated men accompanied us with snow chains and shovels in hand. After several tugs by the beast – voila! – I was freed. We exchanged exuberant high-fives and woo-hoos in the whipping snow, celebrating our huge accomplishment.
Quite astonishingly, it became a weirdly wonderful day. This damsel in distress was forced to put trust in total strangers, and in the end the true spirit of Christmas was on fantastic, fun display.
I arrived back at my beloved apartment in the wee hours. Without warning Pam or Faye, I’d offered the three angels a place to stay for the night. They quietly spread their wings and crashed on the living room floor. In the morning, when Pam and Faye woke up, they stumbled upon three cute, young men camped out at their feet. And as it turned out, it just might have been their favorite Christmas gift of all.