'Worst Christmas' is maybe not the worst
Monday, January 06, 2014 5:33 AM
Last week I walked into a room to find Spouse Roger standing stock-still and staring off into space. "What's up?" I asked him. He said he had been listening to public radio asking people their memories of their worst Christmas ever. So he was trying to think of his own.
The next news item on the radio was about the people all across the upper northeastern part of our country that were currently without power. At that point it had been five days. The newscaster described in some detail some of those people's ways to get through this ordeal, and pointed out that it was likely worse because it is the Christmas season. I thought that this was likely those people's worst Christmas ever.
We know a little about being without electricity because it reminded us of the year that we had the big storm in Nebraska. We were without power for five days; that included heat, light, hot water, the whole thing. That storm was not over Christmas, but it was on Halloween. And it did become kind of spooky, because on the first day or so, if we went outdoors, we were often startled by very sharp cracks, sounding like nearby rifle fire. But it was actually yet another tree limb breaking off, giving in to the heavy coatings of ice that covered everything. Some of our trees were 60 feet tall, so those branches had a long ways to fall, and it would not have been good to be under them. Most took the power lines with them, that is, the power lines that hadn't fallen under their own loads of ice.
The first thing we had to deal with was food, of course. Because the freezer and refrigerator weren't working, we unloaded whatever we wanted to save and got it outside into a snow bank. Fortunately, there were plenty of them to use for our refrigerator annex. At first it was an adventure for us and the neighbors to cook in our fireplace, but hot dogs and beans got a little tiresome after the first day. Fortunately, another neighbor had a big four-wheel drive SUV. We all piled in and bumped over the frozen ruts to one of the few restaurants that had managed to open.
We got out the sleeping bags for warmth at night and slept not too far from the fireplace. The hospital where Spouse Roger worked had its own power generator, so we were able to go to its on-site health club for our showers.
The aftermath and cleanup were interesting. Work crews with various specialties came from all of the surrounding states. A man who was cutting dangerously-dangling branches from some of our trees could shinny up those as quickly as any monkey. City trucks worked long and hard hours picking up the fallen trees and branches that residents piled out on the curb. Most of the neighborhood grocery store's huge parking lot - more than a city block - was piled over 10 feet high with debris taken down by the storm.
Because the ice coat was so thick, the ruts in the driveways and side streets were incredibly deep and very difficult to navigate. Our neighbor across the street was anxious to get out and did not wait for the road to be reasonably passable. Of course, he got stuck. We, being Minnesotans, were more experienced with the ice and snow, so we provided some of the kitty litter we kept around for just such emergencies. That enabled him to get out of his driveway and our side street, onto the larger thoroughfare that had been cleared.
That neighbor was so grateful that he wanted to do something for us in return. Knowing that we had a wood-burning fireplace, he knew we'd appreciate having the large downed oak branch that had landed in our front yard, cut up for future firewood. One day, when we came home from somewhere, it was sawed up in perfectly-sized logs and neatly stacked, ready for us to store. We were a little aghast to find out he had done it himself; he is a heart surgeon, and we didn't think it was a good idea for him, without much experience, to be out there with a chainsaw!
We had a wide variety of experiences and examples of neighborhood get-togethers and friendly cooperation as we got through those five days. While no one would want to do it again, it was a positive experience. It really wasn't the worst of anything; it was an adventure and it was truly fun.
I only hope those people currently experiencing the lack of power after their big storm are having as much fun as we did. And, come to think of it, if that is as bad a Christmas as they ever have, they have no real problems!
Well, Spouse Roger did come up with his version of the worst Christmas. He told me that when he was in the military and stationed in Germany, one Christmas Eve he was assigned to CQ, which means in Charge of Quarters, and the hours were overnight. When he finally got relieved in the morning of Christmas Day, he was expected, and expecting, to go back to the barracks and catch some sleep. But by that time one of his buddies, who had been out partying all night, arrived back loud and boisterous, and that was the end of any hope of sleep.
I asked him if he had tracked Santa all night while he was standing watch on Christmas Eve. He said no, but that Christmas wasn't really so bad, either.