Christmas 2013 will be a year we never forget.
It all started out well enough with early Christmas Eve (Dec. 20) with the traditional cookie decorating.
This is one of my favorite happenings of the year -- after our special dinner, out come the cookies and the frosting.
Kevin, of course, always manages an obscenely enormous cookie which we make him eat at least a bit!
The next day, my friend Barb and I returned to Grand Oak Herb Farm for high tea.
It was their last event of the season with a menu that included Yorkshire pudding, scrumptious desserts, delicious breads, beef, chicken, creamed peas, potato casserole and delicious lime-minty carrots. And of course, lovely tea!
That was Saturday, the day the ice storm started. By 5 a.m. the next morning, our entire region and a good deal of the state (600,000 homes) would be paralyzed by a massive power failure. And we would be entranced by a winter wonderland that was dazzling.
The roads were a mess; power lines downed everywhere. Rick lost power in his house and the adjacent duplex he owns. Worried about the boiler, he went to the lake to bring back a kerosene heater, only to discover that power was required to plug it in.
On our "Christmas Eve" (Dec. 23), he and Kevin drove to his aunt's to pick up a generator. He was one of the lucky ones -- trying to get a generator in this town was a losing battle. When they got back, we did presents with the kids, who then took off to the next house.
Did I mention the ice? Michigan is on different power companies, with different repair schedules and different support. As I write this on the morning of the sixth day, Rick is still without power, as are 2,600 Lansing homes and another 18,00 or so, give or take. (The numbers are fluid and contradicted in various reports.) There are plenty of power lines down and while we were lucky with tree damage, it was significant.
Snow, too. You get snow on top of ice that hasn't melted. More branches down, more power lines in jeopardy.
On "real" Christmas Eve we found ourselves too organized! So after some shoveling...
...we went shopping (for nothing in particular!) and to lunch. It was so relaxing! Of course, everyone in the bookstore was charging cell phones and checking email on their computers.
"Real" Christmas Day was lovely. Rick and I did presents, then we were joined for dinner by good friends -- all of whom had been without power for four days (one of whom was staying with us, a powerless nomad!).
Of course, Christmas crackers made it all the merrier with silly jokes, prizes and paper crowns. Does anyone else think Rick looks like Jughead of Archie comic book fame?
Even my Cosi girl Lizzie was pretty cozy!
So, we are on Day Six of Ice Storm Aftermath. Power is coming back on for some; estimates for our neighborhood are "over the weekend" which could be seven or eight days.
Meanwhile, the temperatures are pretty darned cold (in some cases inside and out) and the weekend is scheduled to be even colder. People are hunkering down as much as they can.
It all causes much thought. First and foremost, I am most grateful that my power was OK. We had a warm place to be, space to offer to others and could prepare a lovely feast to share with friends. We were able to save Rick's house thanks to Aunt Carol and her generator. True, no phone or cable yet, but I have internet and heat and really, that's the best. (Update: cable back; phone can be used for calling out again; now I can continue my Comcast Hell experience to get calling-in back, something that started Dec. 17.)
I've heard nothing but wonderful stories about how people are helping others. One of our local coffee shop chains that planned to be closed on Christmas opened their doors so people could warm up, check mail and charge phones.
My Facebook feed has been filled with posts saying "Stop in to warm up" and "We now have an open bed if someone needs it." The generosity of spirit has indeed been heartwarming. Not surprising, perhaps, but heartwarming nonetheless.
The power workers are tireless, it seems. This is extremely dangerous work and they are working round the clock on 16 hour shifts in very cold conditions. They are doing their best and we are all grateful for their work, particularly over the holidays when I'm sure they'd rather be with their families. But There are a lot of problems here, a lot of issues with the lack of preparedness by the power companies and the slow rate of getting things back in gear. Nursing homes and senior residency places have been running without lights and only generator heat. People are spending a small fortune in hotel rooms, unplanned transportation, spoiled food and much more and anticipating repairs from frozen pipes, among other things. After six days, people are becoming far more stressed. It stopped being "fun" or an "adventure."
It is hard to believe that something so dazzling, so beautiful -- one thinks of crystal necklaces draped over branches as they sparkle in the sun -- can be so damaging. We've heard of carbon monoxide deaths, houses destroyed by fire as families tried to stay warm and car accidents as people negotiate broken stop lights. And plenty of people are toughing it out in the frigid cold.
But we soldier on. We weren't leveled by a hurricane or a tornado. It will be comparatively easier to "come back." There will be costs, there will be damage, there will be a lot of grousing and a lot of it justified. Michigan doesn't get a lot of extreme weather -- we're not in tornado alley or near the hurricane-prone seaboard, we tend not to have the brush fires that plague the west or the floods that affect those near great rivers. So, for us this is a big deal.
But when all is said and done, life will return to normal. Snow in the winter, the promise of spring someday, far away.
For now, the days get longer -- minute by minute. We regroup and we wait. And we do it together.
And really, it will be a Christmas we will never forget.