A year-end tip of the hat to special people everywhere

Susan Flanagan
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“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”
— Jelly Bean Painters slogan

Today is a good time to think back on 2013 and remember all those who have helped others in some way and thus deserve a big Christmas thank-you.

Thank you

First of all, I’d like to thank my neighbours Mark C. and Kubota Dave who never pass by without helping clear my driveway. They are snowplowing angels sent from heaven.

I’d also like to thank Michael Maclellan and Sam Pope of Mike’s Plumbing and Drain although I’ve never even met them. In 2013, Maclellan and Pope offered free plumbing services to certain clients in central Newfoundland asking only that the clients pay the kindness forward.

I wouldn’t have had a Christmas card this year if not for Patricia W. and Katherine A., who work at the Stavanger Drive Dominion. They went above and beyond the call of service one day when I was attempting to print a friend’s and my own Christmas cards. When the Grinch-like machine decided to zap my complicated order after about 40 minutes of screen clicking, Patricia, who has been with Dominion more than two decades, called Katherine, who worked magic to get a different machine to co-operate. Patricia then made sure I got the discount I didn’t know about. As a result, I left the store extremely happy with lovely Christmas cards for both my friend and me.

When I look back on the past 12 months, one good Samaritan jumps to mind, not only because of the curiousness of the details, but also the improbability of him happening down a dead-end dirt road when he did.

So, here is my story of a man on oxygen, a second man who is mute and a car so stuck in snow it was as if the tires were trying to spin their way to the centre of the Earth.

It was last winter and my neighbour Kim and I gathered three young children and set out to attend an open house at Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, the artist incubation space that had only recently opened.

When I turned off the boulevard near the giant synthetic fluid storage tanks, I knew the small lot near the Plantation wasn’t plowed but I could see another vehicle already down by the bridge so I figured, if a small car could do it, then surely the Flanavan with its studded tires could make the trip without getting stuck.

I encouraged my neighbour to follow in her equally-studded car. When we reached the parking lot the car we had seen from the top was not happily parked with its inhabitant shopping at the Plantation, but rather the cars’ wheels were spinning wildly, burrowing ever deeper into the gravel and dirt, at least a foot into the mud beneath the snow.

We approached the man inside the blue car and were surprised to learn he was wearing an oxygen mask attached to a tank on the passenger side. We told him to stay put and proceeded to shovel him out. I don’t remember what the children were doing at this point — they must have been playing in the snow and on the bridge.

It took a lot of pushing but we got Mr. Oxygen’s car turned around and most of the way up the hill where he had to veer left on the main dirt road that people use to access the East Coast Trail.

Before he could make the left turn, however, another vehicle happened by, causing Mr. Oxygen to hit the brakes bringing us right back to Square 1, except this time Mr. Oxygen’s car was headed uphill on a steep grade.

The man driving the second car knew Mr. Oxygen, so he, too, got out to help. We pushed Mr. Oxygen’s car out of the way and improvised a bit of road repair, filling in the massive ruts he had dug. Although the three of us heaved-ho with all we had, we couldn’t get him up the grade.

It was at this point that a dark green four-wheel drive Land Rover with a sign that says Jelly Bean Painters in the window, pulled in the dirt road, saw us and began to back out. I took note of the Roo Bars (at least that’s what they called them in Australia) on the front of the vehicle and signalled for Land Rover man to stop.

When I reached his vehicle to ask for help, Land Rover man did not answer verbally but rather took out a white board and black marker. “I can’t speak but I can hear,” he wrote. OK, I said.

Land Rover man, whose name is Anthony, turned out to be better equipped than most tow trucks. If this had been a Land Rover commercial, viewers would say there was no way this could happen in real life.

Anthony whipped the Land Rover around Mr. Oxygen’s stuck car just as if it were a nice fall day with no snow and he was finding a good spot to park at Coleman’s. He then put special thick cloths (who carries thick cloths?) between the two bumpers and gently nudged the car forward. He whipped back to the front of the vehicle, attached an industrial-strength rope to a hook on his Land Rover and pulled out Mr. Oxygen’s car with about as much effort as it takes to pull apart a pair of socks.

So, thank you, Anthony, for rescuing Mr. Oxygen. And to all those who find themselves stuck in snow this winter, I hope Anthony and his Jelly Bean Painter Land Rover happen upon you, especially if you are down a dead-end road with wheels spinning to the centre of the Earth.

Susan Flanagan would also like to thank Red Oak Catering for supplying hot chocolate to the Beavers on their December lantern walk through Bowring Park. Susan can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca

Christmas on Bell’s Turn feedback

Mary Walsh Butler writes: “You could have been describing Christmas at the Walsh house on Brady's Path, or LeMarchant Road. Like your family, our tree was not put up and decorated until Christmas Eve after we had all gone to bed. Wonderful article.”

Doug Whitten in Calgary, Alberta writes: “I loved your story of Christmas on Bell’s Turn. As I read through the article, so many memories popped into my head and they all brought a smile to my face. I have done my best to preserve some of the old Christmas traditions passed down by my parents and grandparents, but the Christmas on Bell’s Turn experience is a tough one to live up to. Throughout my life I have continually told stories to my wife Lynn and my girls, Jenna (19) and Mary (17), about life growing up on Bell’s Turn. I have been known to take some liberties and maybe add a little colour to the odd story, but overall I believe I have given them a fair and accurate depiction of life on ‘The Turn.’ These were always my girls’ favourite stories at bed time — better than any book I could read them.

“There is so much that made Christmas funny and wonderful at 22 Bell’s Turn. It may have been the mitten and sweaters that we all received each year, or the way, each Christmas, Dad paraded the entire family, in order of age, into the living room so he could film it on his 8mm movie camera (very high tech/cutting edge in the mid ’60s).… Maybe it was the fruit cake, the cookies, the candies and the bowls of fruit lying around. Remember, we did not have pantries back then; the only time the Whittens had any food laying around during the rest of the year was grocery day and then only for a couple of hours.

“When I was in cubs at MQP I used to get Dad to stop at Mount Cashel store on the way home each Monday night. I would go in and buy 10 cents’ worth of candy for me and another 10 cents’ worth that I would put away in an old candy tin. The idea was that this tin would be near full by Christmas and I would give it to my mom as a present. This was an idea ahead of its time, as I would get great praise for my gift from Mom along with countless hugs and kisses for my thoughtfulness then Mom would inform me that because of her teeth she really could not eat the candy and would give the tin back to me …

There are so many of these types of  stories that I have kept in my heart over the years but the thing that always keeps coming back to me is how much my mother loved Christmas and how much joy it brought her. Dad did his bit and he was always around at Christmas, but Christmas belonged to Mom. She had a constant smile and every year lobbied to put the tree up earlier and earlier. She shopped for ornaments everywhere she went, any time of the year. When she found a year-round Christmas store in Florida — well, to say she was pleased would be a big understatement. The way Mom made me feel extra special and extra loved during Christmas sometimes made me feel bad for my brothers and sisters because I believed that there was no way she could have enough left to give that kind of love to the rest of them … It was only years later as an adult that I finally realized that many of my brothers and sisters felt the same way. I guess Mom had enough love to give out to make everyone feel that way.

“I miss my mom and dad each year at Christmas and feel a little sad, but only for a brief moment. Then I get onto the business of laughing, playing and trying to make Christmas as good as it possibly can be for my wife and kids. That’s just the way Mary and George (my parents) would have wanted it.

“With Mary Stamp dying this month and Christmas being so close, memories of my parents and Christmas on Bell’s Turn with The Marshalls, The Shanos, The Shortalls and The Stamps come flooding to mind; the timing of your story was perfect and it was beautifully written.

“Thank you for writing and sharing this and thanks to your brothers and sisters for helping fill in the blanks.”

Organizations: Land Rover, Walsh house

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Australia, Bowring Park LeMarchant Road Calgary Florida

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