By Pat Veretto
Clouds have a unique color when they're carrying snow over the Rockies. From the plains you can watch a snow storm wandering around the face of a mountain, slipping into the folds of valleys, running its fingers through the evergreen forest and bumping down rocky slopes.
This day, two days before Christmas, I was at the window doing just that. The snow storm seemed distant and foreign to the immediate world - one of unwashed dishes, unswept floors and sleeping children. Just outside the window the sun made heaps of glittery gems from the snowbank between the fence and the road.
I turned to face the reality of chores and felt the life within me move protestingly. I was ready for her to be born, but first I had to get Christmas out of the way. There was much to do and I had to get some of it out of the way quickly, before the kids awoke.
Gifts to wrap; a cake to bake; giblets to boil for the dressing. Tomorrow there would be cornbread to make for the dressing. The kids and I would chop, dice and mix - sage and cornbread and onions, celery and giblets and more sage! I would find the turkey platter and iron the Christmas table cloth and make oyster stew for dinner, then we would be ready for Christmas.
Lumbering along as quickly as possible, I marked off chores throughout the day. By late afternoon, there were only a few things left to do. Tomorrow - Christmas Eve - would be time enough for them.
The first few snowflakes danced around in the little eddy along the corner of the porch. We had plenty of snow already, but this looked like it would be a freshly white Christmas. The saucer sled hidden in our closet would be immediately welcome.
I was asleep as soon as I fell into bed that night. Early in the morning something woke me and I lay in the dark listening. The wind was tearing around the house as if it were searching desperately for a entry and I knew it was snowing. I was glad we were all safe at home. Even if the roads closed from the storm it wouldn't matter. It was Christmas Eve!
I felt my back muscles tense and thought a little movement would relax them and allow me to go back to sleep. In a few minutes I knew this was no ordinary backache. When it eased I watched the clock glowing in the dark. In five minutes it hit again. I wasn't sure I believed it, so I waited again. Five minutes. Again. Five minutes.
I woke my husband, in a blizzard, on Christmas Eve, in the dark of the morning, and it was time. I thought it couldn't be happening so fast, so I made a pot of coffee and we woke our teenage daughter. She would have to take care of her brother and do the Christmas Eve things. Maybe even do the Christmas things.
I didn't want that to happen. I wanted to make the dressing and get up early to start the turkey. I wanted to bake and boil and smell Christmas coming. I wanted to see my little boy's eyes light up at the sled and my daughter glow with happiness when she opened her gift of books.
Stepping into the stinging, wind-driven snow was stepping into a nightmare. It was still dark and the snow assaulted us and the wind mourned with an unearthly sound at the corner of the house. My husband had warmed up the truck, an old (even then!) 1972 Chevy that could do anything, even buck the snow drifts of a Colorado blizzard. It was surrounded by a two foot drift that my husband helped me flounder through.
Turning south onto the interstate, the snow was blinding. Drifts were full across the driving lanes and we were alone in this white/black/cold nether world.
We were silent, both fighting our own battles - mine, one of bouts of labor pain, and his, one of keeping the truck on the road, moving into the blinding snow.
Out of nowhere came red and blue lights flashing. A highway patrolman came to the window and bent to look inside. When my husband explained, he went to his car and pulled ahead of us, guiding us through the storm. I have never before nor since felt such gratitude for the men who police our highways!
At the hospital... I had time to sign in. The doctor barely got there. The anesthesiologist did not. By the time I had time to fear that, it was over. From waking to birth was five hours - and it was Christmas Eve!
I slept and the wind still cried outside. When I woke all I could see was white. White hospital walls, white curtains, white snow, blowing and bouncing against the window.
The day passed in a blur of white and cold. I asked for extra blankets and more heat and hot tea and watched the snow in its suicidal smashing against the window panes. My new born daughter was beautiful, all wrinkled and red and crying... and I yearned to go home.
Home, where the fire was burning and the Christmas tree lights were glowing and my little boy was playing or wondering where Mommy was. Home where my young teenager was shouldering a big responsibility and trying to do it all right. Home where my husband would be out in the shop, listening to the same wind.
I woke often that night, and every time, the wind was still blowing against the window.
There are still miracles. On Christmas day, the sun shone. The world was neon blue and white and I could hear snow plows rumble and scrape through the street below.
It took forever for nine o'clock to come that morning. A nurse brought the baby and a huge red Christmas stocking in which to bundle her. My husband arrived and away we went, into a glaring white and cold world. Streets packed by plows and traffic were slippery and shining almost as brightly as the sun, but we were going home for Christmas!
The story doesn't end here, of course. No story does, but Christmas was a huge success that year. Although my daughter sometimes complains about having her birthday on Christmas Eve, none of us would give up the story of the baby born in a blizzard, just in time for her first Christmas.
Pat Veretto grew up writing and won her first recognition at the State Fair at the age of 12. Marriage and every day life put her love of writing on hold until her children were all nearly grown. Although she has a wide variety of intense interests, Christmas is one of her very favorites!
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