(Another true story… Christmas Eve, 1980)
Every family has a favourite Christmas story that each year is fondly taken out of its wrappings, embellished and cherished. Our family’s best Christmas includes a dramatic rescue in a blizzard and a happy ending.
The setting is Ontario in 1980. The story begins with two sisters, both pregnant for the first time. It is Christmas Eve, a time when the Boer family never fails to gather on the family farm to exchange gifts, enjoy home-baked goodies, and celebrate God’s goodness. The sisters have been anxiously consulting by phone throughout the day for the weather does not look promising. In fact, there is really no doubt that a full-scale blizzard has descended. However, neither sister has ever missed a Christmas Eve on the farm and the very thought seems unendurable. A more “gezellig” (cozy) time is really not to be had throughout the year.
The plot thickens when the respective husbands thankfully return home from work and quite logically refuse to travel anywhere else in the gale. Bitter tears are shed, imprecations are muttered under cover of mustache, and lengthy discussions held over the phone as to snow, wind, visibility and the contrary male and female dispositions regarding family traditions.
Pregnancy prevails. A call to the farm alerts the family as to the plan. It is decided that it would be wise to travel in two cars and stick together. Hampers filled with presents are loaded into the cars as well as an assortment of mitts, blankets and shovels. Although there are only seven miles to traverse, an hour passes as the lonely vehicles inch their way against the fury. Further tears are shed and angry words more audibly uttered. About a quarter of a mile from the destination, the first car slides ever so gently into the ditch. The trailblazers are rescued and pile into the second car, hampers and all.
The inevitable climax occurs only minutes later. The hapless quartet is stranded as the car becomes hopelessly stuck in a waist-high drift. Feeling inestimably foolish, the sisters apologize for their stubbornness and the four actually share a forgiving laugh at their predicament. It is decided that the men will wade to the farm and get the tractor.
The denouement is unexpectedly provided by “deus ex machina” in the form of a worried dad who has taken the tractor out for a check. Once safely towed to the farm, the errant pilgrims are warmly welcomed with hot water bottles and fervent remonstrances about travelling in a doubly pregnant condition in such inclement weather.
An especially poignant time ensues, sharing gifts and old stories as the whole family appreciates again the simple pleasure of being safely all together. The storm necessitates a sleepover and in the morning there is no possible way to plow through the lane and country roads to attend church. And so, for one last time before becoming mothers themselves, the sisters could bask in the glow of being children in their parents’ home on Christmas morning.
This photo shows the guys entering the mudroom after the epic trek. Dad is barely visible behind my husband, Mark (with beard). My brother-in-law, Harry, is taking off his hat. My brother Tony is also pictured.
Edith-Ann doesn’t look old enough to be married, much less pregnant. She is wearing the red turtleneck. Teresa, the youngest sister, has a ponytail. I am wearing the purple plaid maternity blouse. I think my hair is sufficient evidence of the previous evening’s maelstrom! We are playing the game of Life on Christmas morning! A memory we will always cherish.