During this time of year, holiday movies about traveling home, playing in pristine snow, reunions, sipping hot cocoa by the fireside, excited children, miracles, and guardian angels fill us with joy and optimism.
Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling nostalgic by these movies, or perhaps because this is the season we enjoy old familiar songs, and sharing memories. Perhaps it’s because I have reached an age where people graciously indulge me in my storytelling; but whatever the reason, I feel it’s time I shared the story of my own guardian angel.
This isn’t a Christmas story, but it is a true one. It’s my story about “The Man in the Red Plaid Shirt.”
The first time I saw him was during an ice storm. The streets of Atlanta were coated in ice, a treacherous hazard for pedestrians and experienced drivers, but especially terrifying for a teenager driving home from her job late at night.
The tires on my ’64 Ford Mustang were not very well suited for the challenge of contending with slippery roads. As I slowly drove over a bridge, I lost control of my car veering into oncoming traffic. I felt helpless as I stared at the line of white headlights in front of me. The car spun around until the tires connected with a bit of dry pavement.
A few blocks later, I hit another patch of ice. The tires rotated, but my cherished burgundy mustang didn’t move. I was seized with panic when I saw a car sliding toward me in my lane, whose driver had obviously lost control as well.
I was startled by the abrupt presence of a dark haired man in a red plaid shirt standing next to my window. Without saying a word, he pushed my car sideways into an open parking space, just as the oncoming car passed only inches behind him.
The next time I saw him occurred several months later. My car lost power, but I safely coasted off the Interstate onto the shoulder of the road. This happened in the days long before cell phones. My only recourse was to walk to an exit hoping to find a pay phone or a house where someone would let me call my father to help me.
Seconds after I got out of my car, a green sedan pulled off the highway parking in front of my disabled car. Four men jumped out and grabbed me, dragging me toward their car. The mid-afternoon traffic whizzed by as I resisted and screamed for help.
Within seconds, an enormous semi-truck screeched onto the shoulder stopping close behind my mustang. A tall, dark-haired man in a red plaid shirt vaulted from the drivers’ seat wielding a tire iron above his head. The truck driver pulled me from their car as he battered them with the tire iron. They sped away leaving me lying on the pavement.
The driver helped me into the passenger seat of his huge semi. I remember giving him directions to my apartment but can’t recall him speaking as he navigated his massive vehicle through the suburban streets.
I saw him three years later, again as a truck driver.
The dark, isolated country roads north of Atlanta offered few road signs. I drove around desperately looking for a street that would direct me toward the city. I was relieved when I came upon a four lane highway with a wide, grassy divided median. Although, I wasn’t sure which way to turn or where the highway would take me, I was certain that eventually I would see a sign where I could get my bearings and soon be headed home.
The miles passed without any exits. It was nearly midnight and I was still lost, alone and frightened. When I heard the piercing blast from a truck horn, I glanced in my rear view mirror. The cabin lights were brightly illuminated, making it easy to see the dark-haired man in a red plaid shirt behind the wheel. He continued blowing the horn and pointing to the right. I glanced ahead and saw an unmarked dark road leading off the highway. I exited and followed the road which quickly took me to an intersection. Next to the stop sign was a directional sign reading “Atlanta.”
Years passed before I saw him again.
My six-year-old son was ready to ride his bicycle without training wheels. We drove to a nearby park where he eagerly watched as I attempted to remove them. However, I was totally baffled how to go about it and concluded the pliers I brought weren’t going to do the job. I felt the presence of someone close by and turned to see who was there. Kneeling on the grass next to us was a tall, dark-haired man wearing a red plaid shirt. He held a large silver wrench which he skillfully used to remove the training wheels. The man stood up and without saying a word strolled out of the park.
Several years later, I purchased a black wrought iron bench for my front porch. When I arrived home, I parked on the street in front of my house excited about how much I was going to enjoy my pretty new bench, but shocked at how heavy it was because the employees at the garden center had loaded it for me.
Later, as I sat in my living room sipping a glass of iced tea, deciding which friends I could call to help me, I glanced out the window and saw a white pickup truck had stopped beside my car. A tall, dark-haired man in a red plaid shirt got out, walked to my car, retrieved the bench and gingerly deposited it on my porch. I rushed outside to thank him, but he had already left.
Could this man have been an angel sent to watch over me? I don't know. It's conceivable that a series of random strangers just happened by when I was in stressful situations. What I do know is that someone suddenly appeared when I was in danger, frightened or needed the aid of a friend.
Thank you, Man in the Red Plaid Shirt.