by super sleuth
Rated: E · Short Story · Holiday · #922405
A not so Merry Christmas.
E C Wesch
We all dream of having a White Christmas to make the Holiday Season perfect. We write it into our songs, stories and poetry. There is nothing more beautiful than watching dancing diamonds glistening in the moonlight on virgin snow; while waiting for Santa to place numerous gifts under our gaily lit Christmas tree.
This year was no different than any other as we hustled and bustled through our daily lives in preparation for the Yuletide Season. Christmas Carols were played continuously on the radio, and all the old and new holiday specials we have grown to love over the years, were repeated for a new generation of mischievous little imps.
I have seven of those little imps that visit frequently whenever mommy and daddy have had enough of them. Their whining, crying and fighting over who is going to play with whose toys, is usually enough to send them packing to visit grandma and grandpa.
Don't get me wrong, I love when they come and visit. Although they are not always perfect angels, they are usually fairly well behaved when they are here. Like most children, they all seem to behave better for their grandparents. Maybe it's because we seem to have more time for individual attention, or maybe it's the guide lines we set for them to follow and if they break the rules they have to go back home. That in itself is a punishment worse than death.
I was looking forward to having my family over for Christmas dinner. I bought a nice large ham and took it out of the freezer several days before Christmas to let it thaw in the fridge.
We were going to have sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, tossed salad, broccoli, cauliflower, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and apple pie. A feast fit for the Wesch family Christmas dinner. Now our family Christmas dinner, feeds the trash can outside our back door along with whatever else spoiled during the power outage.
Three days before Christmas, the weatherman announced that we would possibly have a white Christmas. Although I am not a cold weather person, I was excited about the fact that it was going to snow.
At 5:30 Wednesday morning December 22, 2004 I woke up, showered, got dressed, made my lunch, hoped into my car and headed off to work. A typical normal day.
As I drove to work the news came on my car radio and the DJ was announcing all the school closings. I thought to myself, what do they mean school closings, since when do they close schools because of rain. What is it that am I not seeing? I listened closer to the news as they announced an accumulation of 6 inches of snow, with a possible 15 inches in Cincinnati and the surrounding areas. I am about 60 miles east of Cincinnati. Where was all that beautiful snow? All I saw...was rain.
When I arrived at work, several co-workers that lived north of town, were talking about the snow and how they had to clean off their cars before they left for work. I thought they were making it up. There was no snow. By the time 4 PM rolled around I was anxiously wondering if we had any accumulation yet. As I walked out through the front door of Wal-Mart, all I saw...was rain. It was beginning to get much colder now, but still...no snow. What a disappointment.
As I listened to the radio on my way home they announced the snow accumulations in the surrounding towns west and north of us. When I drove my car into the garage, I wondered where all that beautiful white snow was. Everyone else around us seemed to have snow in a bountiful quantity, yet we still...had rain.
I thought about how beautiful our sprawling four bedroom ranch would look surrounded by a blanket of white. Our home sits nestled in a valley on eleven acres of property. The scenery surrounding us all through the year is breathtaking. We have a well stocked 3/4 acre pond only forty feet from our back door and every morning and evening we can sit and watch the deer grazing on our back hill.
A small continuously flowing stream meanders casually along the side of the house and provides us with a chorus of soothing melodies all year long to soothe our spirits. A corpse of trees along the stream, joins in the chorus as the wind whistles a tune and gently rustles the leaves in harmony to the orchestrated opera. Yet here we were, bathed in the dreary gray of another boring wet cloudy day.
Wednesday evening, my daughter Deborah called from her home in Columbus to find out how much snow we got because they wanted to go sleigh riding when they came down on Christmas Eve. My son-in-law wanted to ride the 4 wheeler in the snow. I said, "What snow? It's raining outside." I could hear the disappointment in her voice, it echoed in my own similar thoughts. Columbus already had ten inches of snow, Hillsboro zero.
That night after spending several hours on my computer visiting with my other family on writing.com, I put my little Super Sleuth, a long haired chocolate colored Chihuahua, outside to do his business. After letting him back in, I took care of my business and then went off to bed.
I awoke around 4:30 AM and found my house very cold and extremely dark. I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. The bedroom area of my home is normally very dark, but I usually can find my way easily to the bathroom because there is a small night light in the outlet next to the sink. Not thinking anything about not seeing it on, I went back to bed and nestled deeply under my cozy warm comforter. I knew I could sleep as long as I wanted to today, because it happened to be my day off.
At 8:30 Thursday morning my husband Jim woke me up saying that we had no heat, water, telephone or electricity. The latter of course was the most important, because without electricity nothing else worked. Makes sense doesn't it.
The temperature in the house just kept getting colder, so we dressed in warm clothes and sat in the family room in front of our gas fireplace. It would have been nice if my husband had left it on last night, for it would have provided some much needed warmth, but for safety sake he turned it off at 1:00 AM and went to bed. By 2 o'clock in the morning the power was off. Unfortunately, the gas fireplace has an electronic ignition, and so we spent most of the day just sitting around staring at a dark empty hole in the wall, imagining the warmth it could have been emitting. While bundled up trying to keep warm, we hoped the power would come on soon.
As we sat huddled in our family room, we glanced out our window and were joyfully entertained by a doe and three yearling's that frolicked on the hillside behind our house. There is a well worn path that leads from the forty-four acres of woods next to us, up our hill and down the backside to the creek that winds behind our hill.
While watching the trio of yearlings paw through the ice to get to the sweet grass that lay underneath, I noticed the grotesque shape of our weeping willow tree. The once proud, beautifully arched branches that draped languidly and swayed in the summer breezes while lovingly caressing the ground now seemed to have been tied into multiple knots and frozen in place by some giant hand. It no longer resembled the familiar friend I had grown to love. It now looked like some monstrous Medusa writhing in agony.
As we looked out our front window toward the neighbor's houses across the street we could see the results of Mother Nature's glory and her fury. One large tree had fallen across the roof of my neighbor's newly built barn, another had fallen across the doorway baring any entrance into the structure. Both of my new neighbors across the street were very, very lucky. Their houses sit nestled in the hillside and by the grace of God not one of the many thousands of trees hit either of their homes, and the damage done to Ron and Marcie's barn turned out to be minimal.
The normally sweet orchestrated music we listened to every day, seemed to be replaced by a new tune. A harsher tune. A tune filled with snap, crackle and pop. It almost sounded like small bore gunfire. The sheer weight of the ice that settled on the branches of the trees was too much for the ancient warriors. They fought many battles against the elements of nature and now succumbed to the ravages of this new ice enemy. It seemed that during the night as the temperature dropped, the rain had turned to sleet and then froze solid on everything creating a beautiful winter wonderland. Underneath all that beauty were millions of broken tree branches. Trees were split in half from the sheer weight of the ice accumulation. Many trees were uprooted and toppled. A large tree along our creek, fell toward our house just missing it by a few feet. We were lucky. Our bedroom is on that side of the house.
My neighbors and us, all have these hand held walkie-talkies that have a sending and receiving distance of up to 5 miles. When the charge is full it runs off the batteries. We all stay tuned to channel 10. They have come in handy many times in the past when someone got sick or hurt while working in the fields. It now helped us to be kept informed as to what was going on out there in the frozen wasteland of Hillsboro, Ohio. As our neighbors traveled searching for fresh water, kerosene, and oil for oil lamps they kept us informed of the downed trees across the roads that took out the numerous power lines. There were even several telephone poles that snapped in half from the tremendous weight of the ice.
The ice storm left over two hundred thousand families without power, and we were among those selected to do without. Luckily for us, we had another source of power. Our RV has a gas generator that supplied us with electricity and a propane tank, when turned on provided us with heat and the ability to cook our food. So, when the temperature dipped down into the single digits, we were snug as a bug in our RV for the eight days and nights we were without power.
My son Tony, and his wife Jennifer provided us with water for drinking and cooking, since they had water but no heat we joined forces and all of us slept in our 30 ft RV. There were 8 of us in all, 4 of my son's five children, Jimmy, Patrick, Wyatt, and ViVien. Their oldest son Logan, was at his great grandparent's house in Beavercreek, where at least 16 inches of snow had fallen. Even though we were cramped, we had enough beds in the RV and considered ourselves lucky to have heat, a microwave, built in television, and a gas stove to cook on. The regular programing was very stat-icky because we were unable to raise the antenna which was frozen to the roof. The TV however, was still able to provide the children with entertainment, and they were able watch lots of Christmas videos.
Now that all of our immediate necessities were taken care of, I was finally able to appreciate the beauty laid out before me. Occasionally the sun peeked out from behind the heavy voluminous clouds. When it did, it illuminated the glittering, sparkling, faceted diamonds that seemed to be scattered everywhere. Our lawn looked like a miniature frozen forest with each individual blade of grass covered in a thick layer of ice. Many stood straight up and tall while others bent under the heavy weight of the ice. Every tree limb and branch glistened like jewels in the sunlight. If it weren't for the lack of conveniences, the beauty of the moment would have been a poet's dream. As it was, we were more interested in staying warm, then enjoying Mother Nature's Christmas decorations.
As we finally settled in that first night, and the kids slept, I longed for my computer to be up and running. My mind was locked in a creative attempt at writing about the beauty surrounding me. My fingers itched to be pressing the keys in a frantic attempt to communicate how I viewed the glorious scenic wonderland before me.
Instead, my fingers remained idle and frozen in time. I made several feeble attempts at writing down the images before me and even made a list of all the possible words to describe the wondrous beauty that kept us all a prisoner. The lack of my computer, also made a prisoner of my mind. I guess my mind was spoiled by the convenience of instant editing. The thought of all those scratched out words and phrases on a shabby piece of paper revolted my senses. I couldn't think, my mind became a blank. Then, with the pen poised in my hand and ready to write, I tapped the blank pages instead with a droning rhythm of boredom. I think I was experiencing computer withdrawal symptoms.
The next day, Friday the 24th of Dec. 2004 was Christmas Eve. My son brought over his hard line phone so we could send and receive phone calls. We called my daughter and told her not to come down because we still had no power. She agreed and so we spent our holiday with only part of our family present.
After speaking to my daughter I left for work and saw first hand what I had only heard about. Although the roads had been cleared, only a small portion of power had been restored. I saw several extremely large trees that had fallen and landed on houses and automobiles. The devastation was everywhere. It amazed me how something so beautiful could paralyze a community.
When I returned home from work, the shrimp dinner I had planned, joined the ham in the trash can. Instead we ate pizza rolls, Stouffer's French bread pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers.
Christmas morning after a hearty breakfast of kielbasa and eggs, we all headed into the house and exchanged gifts. My son brought over his kerosene heater and set it up in our entry hall. It started to smoke and the soot set off all of the smoke detectors in my house. They could not be turned off because they are hard wired into each other. So my husband threw the heater out the front door into the frozen wasteland. It slid down our front step, across the porch, down the porch step and skidded on the ice along our front walkway. My husband left it burning hoping it might help with global warming.
After the children's toys were all put together we headed back into our RV to get warm. We all needed a shower desperately. The soot had settled on everything, including us. Our clothes were black, as were our hands and faces. I could just imagine what my house was going to look like in the morning. I was afraid to go back inside. We tried to clean up as much as possible but it was a losing effort.
The next day I went to work with clean clothes on, but the rest of me left a lot to be desired. I was able to wash at work but was restricted as to what I could expose to wash. A Wal-Mart restroom is a very busy place.
By the fifth day of no electricity, I should have been thinking about the warmth and comfort of my own bed, or the convenience of a warm toilet seat and a toilet that flushes. A hot shower engulfing me in it's warming embrace with my hair lathered with a perfume scented shampoo, would have been a normal thought for a normal person. Instead, all I could think about was all the email I was missing. I wanted to read about what people thought of my poetry and stories. I wanted to get back into the groove of the three R's. Reading, Rating and Reviewing, that had become a normal part of my life. I wanted to be NORMAL again. I wanted to be...ONLINE. Although, we were able to reestablish a closeness within our family unit, and I got to see my son a lot more often then usual, I longed for my normal routine. A life of solitude. Just me and my computer up until the wee hours of the morning.
Two days before New Years, my daughter-in-law informed us that power had been restored to their mobile home and that they would all be leaving as soon as they collected all their belongings.
The solitude that followed was welcoming and yet the silence was unnerving. We had lived in such close quarters for so long that the separation was difficult for me. The children kept my mind busy during the long hours of not being able to sit at my computer. They gave me a reason for waking up each morning. Now, I had no kids and no computer. What was I to do with myself? Suddenly the answer popped into my mind. I would BATHE.
Stripping off all of my clothes in the privacy of my RV, I proceeded to heat up some water and take the first warm washrag to my filthy body. By the time I was finished with my toiletries, I felt like a new person. As I looked into the blackened water I wondered if my washrag would ever be white again.
The seventh day of living in our RV was the beginning of a new era. My husband's boss invited us to use the shower in his bath house. It was the only building that had electricity. The log cabin in which they lived was still without power. My husband and I jumped at the chance. It would the first time my hair was washed since the Tuesday before the storm. After my luxurious shower I felt like I was reborn.
When we returned home from our glorious shower we noticed the utility company was finally working on the power lines on our road, and so we went home and unplugged all our electronic equipment.
Some time during the next night we must have run out of propane because the heater no longer worked and I was unable to light the gas stove to cook breakfast. God must have been looking out for us because the gas in the propane tank lasted just long enough for the electricity to come back on.
By 10 o'clock in the morning, our power had been restored and I went to the circuit breaker box and made sure all of the switches were snapped into the on position, I then went through the house plugging in all the appliances and lovingly plugged in my computer. You didn't think I would run the risk of it being damaged by a power surge, did you? NO SIR. Not after everything I just went through. Next, I clicked on the remote control that ignited the flame in my fireplace and turned on the blower hoping to circulate the heat faster. I then raised the temperature on my thermostat to speed up the warming process. As a last thought I opened all the faucets one at a time to get out any air that might have been trapped inside the lines. I washed all of my pots and pans and then loaded and ran the dishwasher. I had a busy morning.
It was soon time for me to leave for work so before I left I went to the basement to check and see if any of my pipes had broken. Thankfully, they had not.
Although we survived the frigid weather and treacherous road conditions there were many that suffered far worse then we did.
One of my Wal-Mart customer's house burnt to the ground when their electricity was finally turned on. The power surge burned the old wires in their walls and the smouldering fire soon spread quickly. All that remained of their two story farm house, were two tall chimney stacks. Luckily there were no injuries or deaths resulting from that fire.
There were also several other fires in the area and several deaths. A man died when he used a generator to supply electricity and heat to his home. He placed the generator in his basement and the exhaust fumes overcame him. If he had only left the generator outside his life would not have been cut so short.
The weatherman predicted a warming spell and I gratefully looked forward to it. I will never again wish for snow at Christmas time, you never know what your wish will bring. This Christmas was a holiday season for the books and one we will not soon forget.
I hope your holiday was spent among family and friends. May the joyous New Year fill your mind with new ideas and creative images. May your fingers never be idle and your dreams become a reality. Ginger