Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Memory

When I was a child, I'd always wanted to have my Christmas tree in the front window of my house, so that I could see it from the street.  Our house just wasn't designed for this, though.  Our living room did have a big window, but it didn't face the street.  It faced our next door neighbor's garage.

One year, I asked my mother if we could put the tree in front of our dining room window, but it was small, and high up, and you really wouldn't be able to see the tree that well anyway.  So, that was a no.

Once I was grown, and got my own house, I had a large front window, but trailer houses are so small, and it would have been a major undertaking to rearrange the furniture to put the tree there, so I just didn't.

But that one Christmas...that Christmas of 1998, I decided that by golly, I was going to have my tree in that front window, no matter how much of a major undertaking it was. That was the year I fulfilled my childhood dream.  That was the year I had my tree in the front window.

That was the year we had no electricity on Christmas Day, because that was the year of the big ice storm. 

I remember it like it was yesterday.  Christmas was on a Friday that year, and I'd saved enough vacation to be off of work for that whole week.  The storm started on Tuesday.

It had been so hot all day, with a strong South wind blowing.  It was so strong that I had to close all my Southern facing windows, but that made it miserably hot inside the house.  We were watching A Muppet Christmas Carol when the wind hit.  I could hear it coming, screaming like a banshee across the pasture, and when it hit, the whole house shook.  The temperature dropped 20 degrees in as many minutes.

Sometime during the night, the rain started. 

By the time we woke up Wednesday morning, there was already a pretty heavy layer of ice on everything.  Cody was down with a cold, but he really, really wanted to go out and knock icicles off of stuff.  I bundled him up well, and let him go out for about 20 minutes, then made him come back in and drink hot chocolate.

As the day wore on, and the rain continued to fall, I began to hear branches creaking and popping.  I opened my front door and looked out, just in time to see the entire top of my across the street neighbor's tree fall out.  About 15 minutes later, James came knocking on my door.

"You and Cody come stay with us until this is all over."

I'd already put Cody to bed, but it seemed the better part of valor to get him up and go next door.  After I'd gotten him settled into bed over there, I helped James hook up their generator.  About an hour later, the electricity went out, and didn't come back on for 5 days.  It took even longer for the temperature to get above freezing.  It was so cold that we used Beverly's screened porch as an extra freezer.  Seriously.

Since James had to go back to work Friday, we decided to have our big Christmas dinner on Thursday, but because the stove and microwave were running off the generator, it took longer than normal to cook everything.  By the time we got done cooking, we were all too tired to eat, so we just had our Christmas even snack stuff and reheated the dinner the next day.

That evening, Christmas Eve, we opened the gifts that we would normally open with Beverly and James.  I had to run back to our house to leave a note for Santa, letting him know where Cody would be that night.  Well, Santa got that note, because he brought Cody's presents to the right house.

You know, back in 1998, that's when times were good.  We got lots of presents that year, and they were all at our house.  I'd got a big garbage bag, and would trudge to the house and get a load of gifts.  We'd open them, then I'd go back and get some more.  It took about 5 trips to bring all the presents over.  In a way, it was good, because we were able to make the excitement last a little longer.  In a way, it was bad, because by that time, I had caught Cody's cold, and was getting sicker by the minute.

As if that weren't enough, James had gone back to work that morning, so I had to run out and check the generator oil, and keep it gassed up.  But Michael was on his way.  They lived in Atlanta at that time, and were coming for a visit.  They had to wait until Christmas Day to come, because one of them (I don't remember which one) had had to work Christmas Eve.

I tell you, I was never so glad to see Mike as I was that day.  By the time they got here, my fever was up to 102', and I was miserable.  But now that he was home, he could check the generator, and I could just lay on the couch and be sick.  Which I did-- for the next three days.

Also, we invited a single mom to come for dinner, because she didn't have any electricity either.  She, her older daughter, and a friend came.  They had been cooking stuff on top of their wood insert, so they were glad to get a real meal.  My mother had sent me the first few of the Left Behind books, and the daughter grabbed the first one and read the whole time they were there.  I don't remember where the younger daughter was.  She may have been with her dad that year.

After our electricity was back on, James took the generator out to their house and hooked it up for them so they could have some heat.  When theirs got turned back on, he took it to another house, and so on until everyone had power again.

 Which brings us to today.  What with the young-un all grown up and gone and all, I was feeling pretty nostalgic, so I dug out my old home movies and watched a few of them.  While it was fun looking back at times past, without those movies, all of those Christmases past just seemed to run together.

Except one.

There is one that stands out, vividly in my mind.  The one that happened in 1998, the year Cody was 5.

The year we had our Icy White Christmas.

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