It was easy to tell that the weather would turn vicious that day, even without a television or radio. As I had my morning coffee and looked out my back window, I could clearly see two large round bales sitting unattended. Usually at that time of morning I would be watching a food possessed horse, chewing with her head down, almost buried in the hay ring, her ears flat back, and her rump moving from side to side where ever she thought a thieving cow might be trying to sneak up behind her to steal a bit to eat. But she wasn’t there. No were the several black cows that would crowd each other out or the larger horned cows shaking their heads threateningly at each other or the lone sheep. Neither did I see our strawberry and white mother and daughter shyly trying to grab a mouthful, or laying off in the distance, lounging and waiting. There was no one, not even the bothersome goats that bleat half the day as if their heads were stuck in the fence. The field sat empty, save for those bales.
My thought immediately turned towards the paranoid. Did a gate go unlocked? Did the children leave the front gate open? But then I saw a backside of black peaking around the barn as a heifer drank from the cattle tank. All the animals had taken to the barn. This is something that is highly unusual around here. If there is freedom to be had, this homesteads animals will take it. Husband had mentioned something about a blizzard approaching. Western Kansas was looking at getting over a foot of snow. But here they were only calling for a trace to two inches. What kind of blizzard would that be? What ever it’s type, husband had obviously had a chat with the cattle before he left for work that Christmas Eve morning. I had other things to worry about than the cattle being cowardly.
The radio mutedly sang Silent Night, or Noel, or Jingle Bell Rock, at the sound level it was at, and the “modernized" soft Jazz versions of these all start to sound the same, I lit my hand rolled cigarette and refilled my coffee and hide away is a very cold and isolated room with pen and paper. A list had to be made. There was so much to be done. It was Christmas Eve after all, and it was expected that I perform in a certain way. Every year there were certain things that were wanted/needed/demanded of me from every one, or so it seemed. The boys had lost their stocking from last year, and just now discovering this, new one’s had to be made. Cookies, pies, cards, and presents all had to be finished. I needed to clean my house and do laundry. I crumpled the list, and tossed it aside. I didn’t want to see a visual reminder of my so called responsibilities. I put the smoke out and walked through the house to heat up my coffee. Then to the bathroom, with a small load of laundry. It was then I discovered that the hot water line had froze. This I found interesting, almost comical, for the cold water line was still running just fine. I went ahead and did the laundry in cold well water, my hands slightly pink from the numbness as I finished. Luckily the oven flames were waiting for me as I returned for hot coffee.
The boys finally woke, this their second day of a two week vacation. I left them with steaming hot bowls of customized oatmeal and spiced milk and went outside for morning chores. The morning sun had done little to warm up the air, and my exposed finger tips stuck to the metal of the gated doorway as I went to feed the chickens. The poor things, watching them frantically pace as I approached one would think I hadn’t feed them in days. The hens are ever so happy to see my that they peck at my feet as soon as I step inside with. I can feel the love. Morning chores were finished and the oven’s flames waited.
I still wasn’t in the mood to feel pressured, or overly stressed out by what I need to do that day. I already felt enough of it, as I didn’t have enough money to purchase all the ingredients needed for the pies that were requested of me. Maybe if they were customers and money would be coming into the picture I would have tried harder to get the ingredients. But now, instead of 4 different pies there would only pie one, maybe two if I was in the mood. But that morning, only 1 pie was on my mind and not any other. I sat down, the radio still playing sanitized for your protection Christmas songs. The boys had run off to find material to use for stockings, and I got to work on some hand stitching. And as sewing is not something I do very often, tiny droplets of blood soon erupted on my thumb. I sucked them, and returned to the work. This had to be done by that night, I had little choice if I wanted to have a gift for the newest member of my husbands family. Suddenly the house felt like it moved. The wind picked up and slammed against our mobile home, not only was it screaming outside, but whistling inside, through whatever small holes, gaps or cracks it could find.
The temperature drop a few degrees were I was sitting. The storm that husband had warned the cattle about had arrived. I looked outside to see young trees bending over as snowflakes the size of half dollars whipped around them. I no longer thought that the cattle were being cowardly. A chorus of “MOMMY! IT’S SNOWING!” and a flurry of boys racing down the hall, assaulted me. Of course, boys being what they are decided that it was time to get out their snow suits and run around the newly fallen snow. I warned them that the winds were strong, and the temp's were low, but that was nothing to them. It was adventure time. I sent them off and began cleaning, I decided to ignore the almost too late to finish Christmas present.
The boys were back inside within a few moments. Their noses red and runny, there cheeks on the frostbite side of red, and their eyes pink with wind whipped tears. “too cold” was the only words that any one of the three would speak, and those came hesitantly from the oldest. Hot cocoa was dispersed to the freezing to death drama kings as they whinned and moaned about no longer feeling their fingers. I thought they felt fine to me. No one found that funny.
I would not be attending Christmas Eve with my husband or boys. I would be staying home while they went to husband’s family’s house. I am not wanted there. For you see I am the teenage tramp that my husband just happened to knock up, and after 13 years, and 3 children, that’s all I still am to them. My husband’s gift to me this year was that I could stay at home. And even though that was the only gift I would be getting from him, it was the best one I have ever received. I still however was hand making presents for his family, knowing full well that they wouldn’t be appreciated. One or two would be cherished, husband’s nieces would at least get a kick out of them, but the adults. . . well no point in going into all that unpleasantness. I worked what some might consider feverishly. Still stabbing myself on occasion with that little needle, but not getting any blood on the toys, while my children hounded me to make them food. They know how to make a sandwich,however it never tastes as good as when it is made by your mother. Food was made, another room was cleaned, more laundry washed in freezing cold water, and dishes ignored. The snow continued to pile up against the house.
Husband left work early, a Christmas present from his boss. Before he got home, I donned my leather’s, and boots and went to retrieve the mail. I left the front gate open because I didn’t want to argue with it and the wind. Soon I discovered that snow hitting you in the face at 50 mph is slightly painful. I thought I would never get away from those needle stabs. As soon as I stepped back into the house, husband pulled into the driveway. I refilled my coffee cup, and poured my husband a fresh mug, with enough sugar in it to kill a large dog. Husband opened the door in a grand entrance, the wind catching the fiberglass/Styrofoam and aluminum rectangle flinging it open, announcing his arrival. He bypassed the coffee, as he smuggled the bag of cheap stocking stuffers under his leather (coat).
There was a change in our evening plans. Husband’s sister had called, the entire family, except for us, had canceled due to the weather. Husband still wanted to go to his sister’s, she was only a 15 minute drive from our house. And because it would only be our two families I decided to go ahead and go. Our presents to them were very well received, and I was grateful to them for that. We ate well, a traditional Christmas meal. We laughed and held the new baby girl. The evening was going well. And the entire time the wind howled and the snow deviled around the small house.
Heading home was an adventure unto itself. The weatherman declared an official blizzard, and that everyone should stay off the roads. But we, we live a little too dangerously at times, and wanted to be able to sleep in a bed, and to keep a watchful eye out on our beloved animals. I for one didn’t want to be trapped at my in-laws. We started home, the side roads covered with snow devils twirling in front of us. The boys awed at the sight. We hit the main road, as main as it is, it is still not salted, sanded nor plowed, the wind for the most part, kept the snow from piling up where there were no trees. The dark pavement was covered it what could only be described as newly formed lace. The shiny, pure virgin lace that one would pay good money for. We hit open prairie and could no longer see past the hood of our car. We crept along, following, and being followed by several other cars, until suddenly we came to our turn off, the dirt roads, and then home. I fought the wind and the snow as I opened the gate, and then pulled it clumsily shut. Tying it tightly and praying that it would stay that way through the night. Once inside, we warmed by the stove, and talked of Santa.
I must remember to write a Thank you Letter to NORAD. For that night a child that was feeling left out, and not sure weather or not he should continue to believe in Santa, rediscovered a joy that I had been missing in him. My middle son became the vigilant seeker of Santa Clause. He announced to us every time Santa was in a new place, his eyes lit up, his smile was huge, and his enthusiasm made my heart sing. I was rushed into making cookies, peanut butter cookies as I was informed that I do those the best. Letters for Santa were hastily written and then burned, so that the smoke would ride on the nights special wind, then slide down into Santa's pocket and reform as a unharmed letter. “KANSAS!” Santa was in Lawrence Kansas, it was time for the two that were still awake to go to bed. A quick Christmas story was read, candles were lit, cookies and milk where set out, and a single candy cane left on the tree, and boys were sent to sleep. My husband and I waited a bit before the pogo stick, the marble maze and a thick novel were set out by the boys homemade stockings of long Johns. The stocking's were stuffed with trinkets and candies, then we too went to sleep. We knew that Santa would be there to wake the boys before the sun did. We slept with visions of smiles and laughter dancing in our heads.