Our own white oasis for a day
December 28, 2003
The cabin, our new home, has never looked so good. Christmas trees, lights, wreaths and presents have a way of dressing things up. And a snow shower or two to freshen up the white outside doesn’t hurt, either.
That river, time, is slipping past. These days, the kids work to convince the parents they still believe, figuring there’s probably an extra present or two in the deal. Or maybe they want to hang on, too. There aren’t many family Christmas mornings left with everyone living under the same roof.
So Santa pays another middle-of-the-night visit. Morning comes too soon. The excitement arrives as always at that magical moment when Mom finally lets the young ones in the living room, Dad sunk in a corner of the couch, bleary, tugging on a cup of coffee, enjoying the squeals. Oh yeah, the seventh-grader still can’t quite help herself.
It all breaks soon enough into books and naps for the parents, and a sort of concentrated buzz for the kids as they try out their gifts, this year including penny whistles, the electric bagpipes, and a violin. Oh, the violin. No one in this family has played that instrument before, though the girl has long wanted to. So it is that the only thing breaking the tranquility is the tortured cat yowl and screech as she applies bow to string. And sticks with it.
In California, my mother and sister spend the holiday this year with my aunt and uncle, who have a cabin at Twin Peaks, and a cousin who lives in nearby Arrowhead in the mountains above San Bernardino. Yes, SoCal indeed does have some high nooks with pine trees and even ski resorts. If you’re coveting a white Christmas, you have a chance.
My sister has had a rough year, punctuated by a messy separation with husband No. 3 that is steaming toward divorce. Those fires? She lives near the heart of them. Along with everything else they did, the flames symbolized her scorched life.
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Her Christmas couldn’t be more different than ours. Her daughter came down with the flu about when the deluge began that closed Highway 18 out from the mountains. That’s the road through Waterman Canyon, where on Christmas Day the creek flooded and killed maybe 15 people. No white Christmas there, just the worst case scenario of a big rainstorm in the wake of those devastating blazes.
They all were safely perched well above the tragedy. The falling trees and being cut off from civilization of 15 million or so strong down in the basin were mere inconveniences by comparison. Anyway, they were together.
I gathered over the phone that for my sister, the damn crazy cat was the last straw. She’d brought her pet up with her, and apparently the cat figured that bird that flew in the cabin was its Christmas present, if only it could be caught. The rest of the family seemed to be taking this in stride. Besides, if the power went out, that crazy yowling cat would be the best entertainment going.
Yeah, well, you oughta hear the violin, I thought about telling her. But that really would have been too much. It was bad enough that I whooped about their horrible storm – sure to become our powder day if the weather gods blew just right. We didn’t know yet about the tragedy in the canyon below. Or Iran’s earthquake, Israel’s latest suicide bomb, the plane crash in western Africa. …
One gift I give myself is ignorance on Christmas Day. God’s great gift to the world was not freedom from tragedy or even discord. I know this and to be honest, do not bother with ruing that cruel world outside. It just is. Change the things you can.
For one day, I shut the doors, stop time and by God don’t feel guilty about our good fortune this day. While I still can. Even the screech and yowl of that new violin can’t intrude on this bit of bliss. I’d say it only enhances the moment, which will pass on soon enough.
Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or firstname.lastname@example.org.