Christmas — 1989
My sister’s boy, seven-year-old Bobby, started screaming when the wind ratcheted up. The ten of us gathered in the cellar as the funnel cloud headed straight for our house. The last thing I saw as I headed down the stairs was Gramps’ old Chrysler Imperial rotating slowly in the driveway, inches off the ground. The train sound made by the wind increased and as I slammed the door behind me, I saw the shiny black sedan lift like a helicopter and disappear.
The noise downstairs was almost as loud and we heard the roof go with an explosion of ripping metal and snapping wood. Floorboards, joists and sub flooring above us were ripped up revealing a clear sky that flickered and darkened, then turned gray with dust. We smelled natural gas from where the kitchen had been. Silence settled over the basement as the wind moved off and shock deepened. Bobby sniffled and sobbed quietly then he too went silent.
The stairs were intact, and as I climbed them to see the damage, a sense of dread like I’d never known rose in my stomach. I heard a distant choir singing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” It was Bobby’s new cassette player sitting on the unscathed coffee table in an otherwise empty space where our living room had been. Our street was empty; the neat little houses and trees that had lined the block were gone, including our house, down to the foundation. I smiled and felt my eyes watering.
It was a miracle we were alive. As my family members, wife and children came out to look, I motioned them to me and we stared at each other, silent. We hugged each other and thanked God for letting us live.
That was a long time ago, but today, as our family is again gathered to celebrate, the street, our house looks much the same. And even though we aren’t much at singing together, before we open the gifts, we always join hands and softly lift our voices together in a heartfelt rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Mike Whitney writes a weekly column for the Clay County Progress.