The storm had been threatening the day before Christmas Eve. There had been no snow, but there were gale force winds and torrential rains in our rural area between Dublin and Wicklow. The weathermen assured us it would get worse before it got better, so it seemed we weren't going to be going anywhere over the next two or three days.
But who cared? The day after tomorrow would be Christmas so we were all planning on staying in all day, anyway, spending one half of the day on our PlayStation and the other half glued to the telly. That, after all, is what Christmas was all about…well, to a fourteen-year-old boy, anyway.
My widowed brother in law Tommy arrived on Christmas Eve afternoon with his two teenage sons, fourteen year old Kenneth, and Gerry who was a year older. We couldn't have possibly known how lucky it was they hadn't delayed by another half hour or so because a sudden downfall saw a month’s rain in the space of about thirty minutes, leaving the roads flooded and impossible to drive through. Tommy and the boys were going to be staying overnight anyway. Now they had no choice.
Knowing there wasn’t going to be too much daylight, we decided on having a traditional family Christmas board game, so Kenneth went up to the attic and got Cluedo. It took almost two hours of playing before Uncle Tommy deducted that Reverend Green who used the lead piping on his victim had murdered Doctor Black in the ballroom
It was shortly after supper when the storms caused a power failure. There would be no emergency services for at least two days. No electricity for Christmas Day? No television, no blockbuster movies…NO CHRISTMAS DINNER??!!! This storm had ruined Christmas before it had even begun!
Christmas morning actually started off well, in spite of the depression that lay ahead. The exchanging and unwrapping of gifts went ahead, and there was certainly light enough for the first few hours for us to enjoy a marathon game of Monopoly.
The Christmas “dinner” was cold cut sandwiches but it was nowhere near as disastrous as we had feared. We didn't need electricity to enjoy our sweets and minerals (or, the adults, their wines and beers) and the mince pies were just as nice cold as heated. The Christmas pudding, of course, also had to be eaten cold, but it was made nice and tasty with ready to serve custard poured over it.
Dad soon got a nice coal fire going, and as darkness descended down outside there was something…atmospheric…about the blazing flames throwing a homely glow over the living room. When the table was cleared away we all sat around the fire telling stories of Christmases long past, my own being of the Christmas morning I found a fire truck and Lego which Santa had left under my bed. My “fire brigade and Lego” had giving me endless hours of fun right through the Christmas holidays.
After all the stories had been told, the curtains were drawn and Christmas candles were lit. We were all then treated to some delicious Christmas cake and assorted biscuits, washed down with minerals and beers.
Uncle Tommy suggested some carol singing which we all agreed to. We were organised into three sections, first to all sing together as a choir, then the ladies and next the gents. The choir sang traditional carols like Here We Come A Carolling, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and The Holly and the Ivy. Then we did some ‘pop’ favourites by Slade, Wizard and the Bony M version of Mary’s Boy Child.
The girls sang Little Donkey; I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Christmas, Baby Please Come Home. And then it was the turn of the gents. I crowed my way through Here Comes Santa Claus, White Christmas and The Christmas Song, while Kenneth treated us all to Mistletoe and Wine, Blue Christmas and Deck the Halls.
Then Uncle Tommy got up to sing, and it has to be said, he sang absolutely beautifully. He started with Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, and as the logs crackled away in the blazing fire behind him, and the storm continued to blow violently outside, the first two lines rang very true indeed…
Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful.
Uncle Tommy followed with The First Noel, singing in a beautiful tenor voice. As we all sat around him, transfixed, we all knew with a feeling of pure awe in our hearts, that we were experiencing something special.
“The storm that ruined out Christmas?”
More like the storm that showed us all what Christmas is REALLY all about.
Copyright © Jimmy O’Beirne, 1/10/12