First Words – Winter 2023/2024

As we inch closer towards the holiday season, my concerns about the weather begin to surface. Remember the storm last Christmas? Trees crashed on power lines and heavy wind swept snow made driving treacherous. Highway 401 closed on Christmas Eve, but local snowmobilers headed into the storm and rescued people from their cars, dropping them off at the Keeler Centre in Colborne. Volunteers cared for hundreds of stranded travellers in the arena that night, giving up the warmth and shelter of their own homes to help others. In the village of Grafton, the staff at Lass & Ladle worked all night to keep emergency workers warm and fed. Folks with four-wheel drive vehicles brought their neighbours food and firewood. In the County, where the power grid was down for days, friends gathered around communal tables for turkey dinners. Despite the outages, Christmas dinners were somehow delivered to people living alone.

We lost power at the farm two days before Christmas. While the weather raged outside, fourteen people ranging in age from 2 to 78 gathered around the fire in the family room. Before the storm, the adults had imagined a Christmas flick, maybe a football game and a round of Bloody Caesars while the kids played hockey on the pond. But within hours of the severe weather alert, the snow was waist high and there was no escape. The boys kept us warm by stoking the fire and manning the generator, while my sister and I fussed over how to feed everyone with nothing more than a narrow path to the barbecue.

At one end of the kitchen table, a couple of kids fought over my grandmother’s old hand mixer while at the other end, a game of Crazy Eights was going on. The young ones quickly learned what life was like before electricity. Just as cabin fever was setting in, my nephew – a favourite among the kids – appeared from the basement with the huge tub of Nerf guns. Teams were formed and a battle ensued, with campaigns as fierce as the winds that were holding us captive.

On Christmas Eve, we fell back into our family traditions. The children hung their stockings and we tucked them in with hot water bottles and promises that Santa would arrive despite the storm. That night a muffled quiet fell over the house. I lay in bed and thanked my lucky stars that somehow our family had managed to come together – from near and far and against all odds – to share some Christmas magic.

Merry Christmas