Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Ice Storm

One of the most memorable and difficult Christmases I have ever experienced happened in 2004, or as I call it, the year of the ice storm.
I woke up on the weekend at about 10 a.m. which was about the usual time for me. It felt unusually cold in the house, which slightly annoyed me because I hate to be cold, but I put on some socks and went downstairs. My dad said the power had gone out again, which wasn't unusual in our apartment, and that was why the heat was off. I grumbled about it but figured it would come on sometime that day and went to the kitchen to find something to eat. As I slowly realized just how much we rely on electricity for everything--the microwave, the toaster oven, the refrigerator, the TV--my dad started freaking out about the after-effects of the snowstorm of the night before, and my mom joined him as my sister joined me in our quest for food. "It looks like we'll be without power for a while, guys," my dad said as my mom started exclaiming how beautiful it was outside and how wonderful the snow was, until she realized the ice made the tree branches heavy and one had fallen on her new 2003 Toyota, the only new car she had ever owned and therefore, her prized possession. As she trekked across the giant crunchy snow banks to assess the damage, my dad instructed my sister and I to empty the refrigerator into various coolers and to drag them outside. "The snow will keep them cooler than the 'fridge will."
Thus we lived, each hour colder than the last. We slept for a week straight huddled together in the living room, my parents on a mattress on the floor, my sister on the couch, and me, the shortest family member curled up on the love seat. My dad kept a kerosene heater running on a constant loop without any ventilation. I yelled at him, "At least open my bedroom window on the 3rd floor for some air. If you want to kill yourself in here with the fumes, that's fine, but if my cat dies because of your idiocy, I'll hurt you!" Sadly, one of my classmates died that week of carbon monoxide poisoning. My mom, sister and I all worked at The Hills Market grocery store, and we picked up as many extra hours as we could in hopes of spending 8 hours in a heated store, even if we were right next to the door which let cold drafts in.
On Christmas Eve we went to my aunt Debbie's apartment, the first time we hadn't spent Christmas
Eve at my grandma's in my life. She was the only one who had power. I took an insanely fast shower at our house before going, which I have to admit we hadn’t been doing a lot of. Showering in a giant solid ice cube isn’t my idea of comfortable, and being greasy was less painful. I knew my family would be taking pictures and my grandma would be filming and my vanity won out; I brought my hair dryer and straightening iron to my aunt’s so my hair wouldn’t be a frizzy mess. We had a good time, but it felt strange not being at my grandma’s house. 
That was my first Christmas with my husband. When the ice storm first hit, he spent a lot of time driving around because at least his car had heat. He called me hoping to take me out but my strict mother said, "Absolutely not!" She thought it was too dangerous and she wanted the family to be together. However, when the power was still out after days, she changed her tune. On Christmas day, I spent it with Joel. His parents had gotten fed up with not having power and they found a motel on the west side that was open. We spent our first Christmas exchanging gifts in the coziness of a heated room; the heat, and being together, were the best gift of the day.
RADIO: Cinnamon Bear “Snowman”, Jump Jump and the Ice Queen “Tricking the Ice Queen”, JonathanThomas and his Christmas on the Moon “Jonathan Grows Large and Small”
MOVIE: It Happened on 5th Ave is a cute film set during Christmas. It features a well-meaning hobo who squats in a millionaire’s house and brings in other down-and-out people. They become a close-knit group that bands together to have a great holiday, and of course there is romance thrown in. This was the project that Frank Capra turned down in favor of doing It’s a Wonderful Life, which is an incredible film that is on a different level than this one, but if you’re looking for something less profound, this is an excellent choice.
SONG: “His Favorite Christmas Story” by Capital Lights
GIFT MEMORY: Our first Christmas together, Joel mentioned that he hoped his parents got him the
new Nirvana boxed set. Little did he know, I had bought it for him. I was still in high school so I didn’t have a lot of money, but I wanted to get him something really good, so I shopped around and splurged. He’s really hard to buy for and each year I get him lame small things because he doesn’t give me a lot of ideas, so my first Christmas was the most successful one I’ve had for him with gift giving.

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