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Traditions are big in my family. Growing up, each Christmas Eve we would get all dressed up, go to church for several hours in the evening, drive the precisely .4 miles home, have a little snack, and go to bed. In the morning, I would come down the stairs, peek around the corner and see all the gifts Santa left on the dining room table unwrapped and ready to play with.
Well, one Christmas Eve, Mother nature had different plans.
For those of you unfamiliar, North Carolina winters are strange. It rarely snows because normally it is already precipitating while the temperature is dropping to below freezing. So instead of getting beautiful fluffy snowflakes, we get either sleet or freezing rain first, then maybe snow on top if we’re lucky. Sleet isn’t great because it hurts and will accumulate on surfaces making them slippery. But freezing rain is no joke. Those rain drops hit trees, bridges, and decks and instantly freeze into a solid sheet of heavy, slippery ice. All those memes of North Carolinians not being able to drive in winter are mostly because of precipitation like this. It’s a lot harder to drive on a sheet of ice than on snow. Trees are weighed down by the ice and branches mess with power lines. I think you can see where this story is going, but you may yet be surprised.
So one Christmas Eve when I was about 9 or so, we were going to get a storm like this with the sleet and freezing rain starting sometime in the evening. Normally we wouldn’t attempt to drive in weather like that for fear of getting stuck. But the fact that we could literally walk home if we had to made us brave enough to risk it. It started to precipitate right as the service was ending. The drive home was easy – again, it was .4 miles – and we thought we were home free. My dad made a fire and my mom started to cook some scrambled eggs to have with toast and hot chocolate as a late night snack before bed.
Not 30 seconds after the eggs hit the pan, there’s a loud boom, a surge, and all the lights go out. Remember those tree branches? Yea. One made contact with a line, allowed a path to ground, and the transformer blew. No power.
Our wood burning fireplace was a giant floor to ceiling rock wall that my dad could easily get hot enough to warm the downstairs. But what about the eggs? We had 1 option. In a moment of hilarious absurdity, I witnessed my father standing under an umbrella in a sleet/freezing rain storm cooking eggs on our gas grill. We heated water in a camping kettle in the fireplace, made the hot chocolate, and had our dinner around the fire. Holiday tradition saved!
My parents talked about sleeping downstairs in the dining room around that fireplace to keep warm. But the good little Lutheran I was, I was stubborn and didn’t like change. If I slept by the fire, how could Santa leave my presents on the table 3 feet from where I was sleeping? So what did I do? I added 3 extra blankets to my bed, got into my pajamas, came downstairs, and rotisseried myself in front of the fireplace. You know that thing where you stand facing the fire until you’re so warm your clothes are too hot to touch, then rotate 90 degrees to warm the next side and so on. I got as warm as I could stand, then bolted upstairs and immediately dove under the covers. My residual heat warmed the bed and I fell asleep very quickly.
In hindsight, I’m sure my parents had a very cold, frustrating night using flashlights to get everything ready for the next day. But when I woke the next morning and came down those stairs, Santa’s gifts were sitting there on the table waiting for me. Mother Nature was no match for that holiday tradition.
Until next week, thanks for joining us,
Alana and all of us at Beth’s Christmas
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