Ken was a graduate student and we lived in Connecticut at the time. After classes on Wednesday afternoon we packed the car and set off for my grandmother’s house in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. The rest of my family would gather there the next day for Thanksgiving. It was drizzling rain when we left Connecticut but we didn’t think to check the weather report. We didn’t even think to bring boots or gloves or warm coats.
By the time we reached the mountains in New York State, night had fallen and it was snowing very hard. The roads were a slippery mess and clogged with travelers. On one particularly steep stretch, cars were getting stuck halfway up the hill and blocking the road, so in the spirit of the season, everyone helped push each other’s cars up the slope. Our car was a cinch to push—a small, two-seater convertible sports car. Did I mention that we had our temperamental Siamese cat with us? She did not appreciate the excitement and howled and yowled in protest as only a Siamese can.
At this point, we were much closer to my parents’ house in New York State than to Grandma’s, and we could have detoured there for the night—we didn’t. After our boost up the hill we drove on, heedless of the snow and all the mountains ahead. We crossed into Pennsylvania near midnight and discovered that the state police had closed the road. The little border town had one small hotel, so we decided to get a room for the night. We arrived at the front desk at the same time as another couple our age.
“I don’t know who was here first,” the clerk said, “but we only have one room left with two single beds.” We decided to share the room with these strangers. The bathroom was down the hall and shared with everyone else on our floor. Not exactly five-star.
As we retrieved our luggage, the other husband said, “By the way, I hope you don’t mind but we have our cat with us.” Umm…so did we. The growling and hissing lasted all night as we tried to sleep squeezed together on our cot. We were lucky to have a bed at all. By morning, the hotel lobby was crammed with stranded Thanksgiving travelers.
Around noon, the snowplow came through and the road re-opened. We set off again, even though it was still snowing hard. We made it up a few more mountains before the road became impassable and cars got stuck again. Everything came to a halt in the middle of nowhere. We sat in a line of stranded cars in the Pennsylvania woods for the remainder of the day—Thanksgiving Day—watching the snow pile deeper and deeper. If Ken hadn’t gotten out of our car from time to time and shoveled snow away from our doors (with no hat or gloves or boots), our tiny sports car would have been buried. We ran the heater sparingly, worried about our gasoline supply. Our Siamese shivered and yowled.
Then, as the sun began to set once again, angels appeared! There were very few houses along this stretch of two-lane road, but one nearby family saw the line of stranded cars—there must have been twenty of us—and invited all of us (and our pets) inside their small home. With strangers crowded into every square inch of space, they not only shared their Thanksgiving dinner with us, they even thawed out food from their freezer until everyone was fed. Then, these kind, generous people allowed us to bed down for the night in their blessedly-warm home. The floors in every room were jammed with strangers. Their dog even shared his food with our cat, who finally settled down, grateful to be inside.
The snow stopped during the night. The sun came out the next morning and the snowplow came through, clearing the road to Grandma’s house. We helped each other dig out our cars then said goodbye to our wonderful, gracious hosts. Scripture says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). But I believe the angels hosted us that day.
Grandma had a 25 pound turkey with all the trimmings waiting, and since my family hadn’t driven in the snowstorm, Ken and I and the cat had the meal all to ourselves. For the rest of her life, our Siamese craved turkey.
We tell this story to our children every Thanksgiving, emphasizing the three valuable lessons their foolish young parents learned: (1) Always watch the weather report. (2) Always have warm clothing and an emergency kit in your car. (3) And always remember, it’s a joy and a blessing to extend hospitality at Thanksgiving, especially to strangers.
Have a wonderful holiday!