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.