Thursday, December 27, 2012

How I Discovered the Christmas Spirit

"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all, may have been that his heart was two sizes too small." ― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Bah Humbug is how I have felt about this holiday season.  For various reasons, my family all had their own plans and Christmas Day was just going to be my husband, my son and myself sitting there. Alone. Opening presents would take all of 10 minutes and then it would be over. It was to be a looooong day of Christmas misery.  No sitting around the fire visiting with loved ones. No fun baking in the kitchen with my Mom all morning.  No family games with cheating and competitive sibling rivalry mixed in for fun.  I was distraught over what was just going to be a regular 'ole boring day.   So I thought...

The day started out as I had expected. I had to wake my son up at 10:30am. I was starving and my Christmas casserole was getting cold. We ate breakfast and then moved into the living room to open gifts. We opened them one at a time. They thought it was to 'ooh and 'ahh over each individual present. It was really to stretch out what little bit of fun and mystery I thought the day was going to hold. I wanted to savor it as long as possible. After we had opened gifts, my husband went upstairs to play video games and my son and I were sitting there talking. About what, I can't remember.

random fire truck photo to illustrate my point
If you recall, around noon on Christmas day it was raining and about 20 degrees. My son glanced out the window and said, "Look Mom, the (neighbors) dog got out and she's trying to catch him." I looked across the street and indeed, saw my neighbor in her Christmas flannel PJs running behind their Labrador Retriever.

Her husband was about 4 steps behind her and he grabbed the garden hose and started frantically jerking it towards the house. That's when I looked up to see black smoke start to billow from their attic.

This family has six children (Brady Bunch family) that range in age from 13 years to 7 months.  My first thought was "Fire! Where are the children?!"  and I rushed out the front door and started herding their kids from their front yard into my house.  My husband sprinted past me and joined my neighbor inside the house to try to save valuables, computers and family heirlooms. Looking back, I should have been worried that my husband was running into a burning house, but all I could think of at the time was to get the neighbors small children inside my house and away from the fire.  The roar of sirens was getting nearer and people started to pour out of their houses to see what was happening. Within minutes my home had turned into Grand Central Station and it would stay that way all day.

I've always said that if women were in charge there would be no problems in the world. Women are problem solvers. Within an hour, the women on my block took charge. The couple's 7-month old twins had been sleeping and one of them wasn't even dressed.  He had just been wearing a diaper.  We needed bottles, formula, diapers, and a place for them to sleep. The other children were at least dressed, although none of them had coats.  About this time, I noticed that it had started to snow. We were having a white Christmas! Tasks were quickly doled out and off these women went to fulfill their missions. Very quickly two pack-and-plays appeared from people's attics, baby clothes were pulled out of storage, someone drove around until they found a grocery store open and bought diapers and formula. Others brought over food from their own Christmas dinners.  It was magical to witness.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”  ― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The day wound down and eventually the fire trucks and news crews left, people wandered back to their own homes, and we were left with just my neighbors and the 7 month old twins. The 4 older boys had gone to friends houses and the couple had decided to stay the night with us. I poured everyone a stiff drink and as we sat there my neighbors kept saying, "I can't believe it... I just can't believe what everyone's done for us."  It dawned on me that from this tragedy, I had witnessed the true meaning of Christmas: love for your neighbor, the willingness to help someone else in trouble and the desire to put others needs before your own.  My house has never been filled with so much love and this will truly be a Christmas I will never forget.  God bless us, every one!

PS: Because I know everyone will ask what they can do to help, let me tell you that the family was very fortunate to have the proper insurance and a great support system. Nothing is needed at this time. They will rebuild and rebound!

UPDATE (12.8.13)  Although the house was a total loss after the fire, I am happy to report that my neighbors are rebuilding and should be in their new and improved home by Feb. 2014. We can't wait to have them back on the block with us!