The next morning I was barely able to lift my head from the pillow. I managed to call Macys only to be fired. I laid on the spare cot next to the wall heater, in and out of feverish delirium. Was it day or night? I never knew. Some time during the next three days Joellen stopped checking on me which meant she’d also been stricken. The phone would ring and ring and ring until whoever was on the other end gave up.
The night before Christmas, between the “ho, ho, ho” of jolly Christmas songs, we heard horror story after horror story over the radio, pleas from officials to stay off the roads. A historic ice storm was bearing down on the entire Kansas City area.
I’d been raised in the high desert where storms rolling through are generally swift and any snow that fell to the ground rarely lasted once the sun came out. However, in the Midwest, ice storms are slow moving and encase everything in ice. Trees bend to the ground as though praying for mercy. Icicles hang like giant fangs from the eaves of all the houses and the winds howl, sometimes for days.
There was no mail delivery service in Greenwood. Just a tiny one-room post office in the center of town where you went to “call on” your mail. Thus we had no tree, no stockings, no presents. Just each other. And the Hong Kong Flu.
In the morning the ice covering our one window acted as a prism, sending the colors of the rainbow through the room as the winds outside whispered gently. Merry Christmas, the Ice Storm hath ended. Outside all was white save the Christmas lights flashing in our neighbors’ windows. The children took full advantage of the snow and ice covered streets, laughing as they mounted new sleds and raced each other down the hill.
For the first time in days I’d woken with a growling stomach and not a headache. “I’m hungry,” I said to Joellen as she stumbled out from the bedroom.
“Hot damn! So am I!” She said opening our sole kitchen cabinet. It was empty or so I thought. ”Look what I found! A bran muffin mix and it only needs water. Good thing cause we bloody well don’t have anything else.” She turned on the water but nothing came out. “Whelp, no water either. The pipes are frozen.” Then she stepped out onto the tiny porch and ripped an icicle from the eaves. “I thought we weren’t supposed to drink melted ice,” I said as she melted the huge chunk of ice in a pot on the hotplate that served as our stove“Why the hell not?”
I had no idea why the hell not and so I just watched as she scrummaged through the cabinet. “And look … some hot cider mix! I do declare, we’re in for a real feast now.”
I can still remember the hot apple cider and bran muffins tasting better than any gourmet meal I’d ever had. Then we played our favorite records and danced around the room. My favorite Christmas ever.
13 thoughts on “Shalee’s Christmas Story, The End”
Just wonderful. We need so little to be happy, don’t we?
Fantastic memories 💜🙂🙂
Mmmm can really imagine the hot cider
Merry Christmas 🎄😊
This is such a great story, Jan. Thank you for sharing. Life was so different before the internet and cell phones, and maybe I’m just feeling nostalgic tonight, but I really miss those days. Funny, but today, an old friend I haven’t talked to in years sent a message reminding me of our Christmas in London in ’84. We were both students studying overseas, and we hitchhiked from Switzerland to Calais, then took the ferry to England, where we stayed for 10 days. We were almost completely broke, and the place we stayed at made us pay for heat by the hour! Our Christmas dinner was deli meat from a nearby corner deli, but as my friend reminded me, it was somehow magical. Damn, I loved that Christmas. Every time I think of it I smile.
That’s a great story! I think having high expectations makes the holidays stressful but if you expect nothing, even little things seem magical.
Yes! I think low expectations made yesterday better than it could’ve been. Zoom calls can totally suck, but if you expect them to suck, they can be okay.
That is so cheering. May all your icicles turn to cider and all tour muffins give you vital roughage!
Thank you Geoff! Hot apple cider does sound mighty good right now!
Do we have the commitment to turn these sorts of things into longer, novel manuscripts? Full blown narratives and character expansion. Probably not. Too bad. Maybe we are too tired. Anyway, I can only hope for a good ending for both of us. Thanks. Duke
Golly, good question. I suppose all of my stories are somehow linked … as I look back it was like an Alice in Wonderland adventure but I’ve never been good writing children’s stories. This last year has worn down everyone. Wish I was confident it will end (or perhaps that a new year will actually begin and not just be a dropping off point)
Wonderful story, Jan, filling all the senses. You also captured well what it’s like to be so incredibly sick, and then coming out of it.
Thanks Jet! Everything is relative as they say. If you don’t have much then little things can mean the world.
Wonderful Christmas story, Jan. Ah, to be young again!