Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Favorite Christmas

When I was about 12 years old, my mother and father decided they wanted a new house. They bought an acre of property in the forest, felled many of the big trees and set about clearing the brush. My mother designed the house herself, and she was a fan of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. She wanted a fireplace exactly like the one in this picture. The house was quite lovely, and extremely ultramodern for its day. My father used to grumble that he couldn't actually sit on any of the furniture, but it looked nice -- identical to the furniture in this photograph. To his credit, he tolerated the furniture for about five years, and then he convinced my mother to buy furniture we could actually use. She relented, and we ended up with a much cozier home.

We moved into our new house just weeks before Christmas. My mother loved her new stove, and made all sorts of fabulous Christmas treats. The Christmas tree had a place of honor by the window, and my dad put Christmas lights on the roof and on some of the evergreen trees outdoors. It looked wonderful and festive. My two older brothers were living away from home at the time, but they were both expected home for Christmas.

On Christmas morning my mother made eggnog punch in her crystal punch bowl, and we all settled down to opening the gifts Santa had left us the night before. My father lit the fireplace, as was his custom every Christmas morning. As each gift was opened, we scrunched up the wrapping paper and threw it into the fireplace. It was a wonderful Christmas morning, with all of us together. Could it be more perfect?

Suddenly we were aware of fire trucks in the distance. Oh some poor family... The fire trucks got closer ... louder ... they stopped outside our house. Our roof was on fire, and the neighbors had called 911. My dad and my brothers rushed outside just in time to see the firemen dragging their hoses and ladders over to our roof, and fortunately the fire was put out before any damage had been done. My mother and I collapsed into heaps of laughter. My father glared at us,

"For cripes sake, what's wrong with you...? Our house almost burned down...!"

But we couldn't stop laughing. Sometimes living on the edge puts things into bas relief, and makes everything so much nicer. The relief of having been to the precipice and back creates a sweetness that perhaps might not have been there before. We almost lost our new house, but we didn't. The large black spot around the chimney was quickly repaired, and the roof was no worse for the wear. The neighbors who called 911 were invited for dinner and drinks a few days later. It was a great ice-breaker.

My mother spoke fondly many times of that Christmas as her favorite Christmas. It's certainly one we never forgot.


Charles Gramlich said...

Glad it was nothing more than a burned spot. Five years is a long time to sit on uncomfortable furniture!

Alissa said...

Wow, what a memorable Christmas! It's funny, but the most memorable Christmas for me is also the one that was something of a catastrophe as it was spent away from home, with a couple of different car problems thrown in to mess up our plans.

Kimberly said...

Christmas it.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I love the story and the fact that you and your mother laughed! Nothing like a good cleansing laugh! My girls and I laughed a lot and shared our view of memories. A lot of sad memories, but we laughed and everything was better.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Jo - I hope this Christmas will be a little less exciting!!

Happy to have found your blog Jo - and look forward to more exchanges in the new year.

All the best to you and yours over the holidays.

Michelle said...

Wow! What an amazing story. Glad the neighbors called the fire dept but their next step should have been running over to your house and letting you know!LOL

JR's Thumbprints said...

Flue fires aren't easy to douse;
But I'm sure glad it didn't burn down your house.

As for FLW; I can't but help think about Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead." Nothing like burning down what you created.

Anonymous said...

Many times it is small sparks which give birth to the biggest fire.

May all of your Christmases be remembered as happy ones.

houndstooth said...

I would have been laughing just like you were!

My family still laughs about the first year my stepmom made this big dinner for both sides of the family and the turkey caught on fire. Flames shooting out of the oven and my uncle there with the video camera completed the scene! I guess chaos does create a cozy glow in the heart, although it certainly would have been different if something bad had happened.

Kathryn said...

I would have gotten along with your mum Jo; I love that architecture - especially the fireplace! Now I'm trying to remember my favourite Christmas and can't. Probably because there have been no fires (yet...)!
Merry Christmas, you delightful blogger, you.

VioletSky said...

Yes, my most memorable Christmas was also a disaster averted that involved much (inappropriate?) laughter!
Love that house - though can see where it isn't all that comfy to 'live' in.

Wolynski said...

Very funny story. My friend is an interior decorator, but a good one, because he puts COMFORT first. He figures out how the family likes to live and then makes it fabulous, but really comfortable.
Living on uncomfortable furniture - very funny.
Your mother had good taste, but she didn't take into account that the rich use those living rooms only occasionally, then they retreat to their cosy dens.

Country Girl said...

I love stories like this. And bravo for comfortable furniture. Thanks to dad!

Jo said...

Charles, it was a close call...1 *heh*

Alissa, isn't it funny how catastrophes can sometimes be wonderful?

Kimberly, oh, yes. :-)

Kathy, I know...! Sometimes a good belly laugh is the best medicine.

Bonnie, oh yes, each Christmas is exciting in its own way, isn't it? And I'm glad you found my blog too. :-)

Michelle, I think they got there just as the trucks arrived. *heh*

JR, yes! Gosh, I love Ayn Rand's books. And yes, chimney fires are very (!!!) scarey.

Robert, thank you. And you too...!

Houndstooth, oh, no...! Not the turkey...! Now that would be a disaster. Oh, goodness.

Kathryn, I love Frank Lloyd Wright fireplaces too. In fact, I love FLW architecture. I would love to live at Falling Water. And Merry Christmas to you too. :-)

VioletSky, the house became more comfortable as time went on, and it became less "ultra modern". *heh*

Wolynski, yes, what is that rule of design? Form and function? I think function is more important -- as in comfortable. *heh*

Kate, oh, yes, my dad would go along with things for just so long, and then - boom - that was it. :-)

jojo said...

wonderful story Jo...I can picture it and see you all laughing..oh the irony! Enjoy your Christmas and make some lovely memories...jj

Jo said...

JoJo, thank you. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too...!

Paula Slade said...

That is a Christmas memory I couldn't top! Thank goodness for your neighbors!! I totally understand the reason you were laughing - human resilience in the midst of adversity was the greatest Christmas gift you received.

Jo said...

Paula, it was just like something out of a Chevy Chase movie, and we just roared with laughter. :-)

Mia said...

I was going to point out that putting wrapping paper in the fire is probably a bad idea.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I assume your dad had opened the flue, so what caused the fire? Thankfully, it had a happy ending.

Those are some great memories, Jo. I hope this Christmas ranks as one of the more memorable ones, too -- in a GOOD way, of course.

Land of shimp said...

Jo, what a funny story, because the outcome is what counts, and truly, what a blessed Christmas that was.

Sometimes we only get to realize how incredibly fortunate we are, by realizing how easily we could lose all...and then averting disaster. Thank heavens for your Eagle Eyed Neighbors.

Someone else here in the Blogosphere met their new neighbors in almost the same way...I believe it was Amy (she comments over at my blog from time to time)...she and her husband had settled in on a snowy night, when the door flung open, and a complete stranger vaulted into the living room. "Your house is on fire!" and then he promptly disappeared into the night.

What a wonderful way to meet the neighbors, sincerely. "You save our house." goes a long way towards entirely forgiving the occasional loud party, or tacking decoration!

Jennifer D said...

Great story! My best Christmas was when the snow plow pulled up our power lines. We had no power over the holidays and we still had the best time. Our Christmas dinner was cooked over the woodstove and we built a fridge out in the snow.
Our pioneer Christmas,good times.