December 2018 / Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

Backpack Monitors

Ohh, The Weather Outside Was Frightful

By Hailey McCowan
 
It was an absurd snow storm during Christmas 2013 that brought communities together. All across Ontario people were without electricity for days, sometimes weeks. Trees and electrical wires were encased by inches of ice that caused them to fall by the minute. For the first time in a long time, families spent time together sharing stories and playing board games instead of locked away in their bedrooms, only coming down to eat dinNer. There was no television, or wifi – there was only companionship and family to keep one another warm.
 
I remember what that Christmas was like for my family. I woke up that morning and the house felt much colder, I shivered under my blanket. I looked out my window to see that the ground was covered in a blanket of snow. The branches of trees hung to the ground, limp against the weight of the ice that layered their branches. I walked down the stairs to see my family wrapped in blankets, trying their best to keep warm. It felt even colder on the main floor. They told me that the whole neighbourhood was struck by this ice storm; everyone’s power was cut. 
 
We walked carefully to the houses of everyone on our street, making sure that they were safe and warm. We talked amongst ourselves for most of that day, trying to get an idea of how we would reach our loved ones; only those who had charged cell phones would be able to call their families. People had prepared soups and hot chocolate so that everyone could have some food to eat. We cooked all of our food on the barbecue and we ate as a family, sharing christmas stories and making sleeping arrangements for that evening. We lit candles so that we could see through the dark night and we closed all the doors on the upper floor level so that the heat would be kept with us on the main floor. We slept together in the living room with all the blankets that we could find.
 
The next day was the same. We had no power or heat. We boiled a pot of tea on the barbecue and got to work right away. Part of my family shoveled the driveway while the others went to check up on older neighbours who had no family by their side. At one point I remember hearing what sounded like a low hum and then a series of mechanical buzzing noises – it was the transformer at the end of our street. It exploded and for a moment and lit up the sky with green and blue sparks. We then went to gather my great grandparents, who stayed with us. 
 
On Kingston Road, civilians were directing traffic and guiding people to where they needed to be. Everyone was shovelling driveways, cutting up pieces of fallen wood and sharing food and time together. I remember looking out my living room window that afternoon and seeing both kids and adults skating up and down the road. A big smile grew across my face and I immediately ran for my skates. I tied them up tight and was outside in a flash. The street was littered with branches and blocks of ice; there was a big cable wire laying in the middle of the road but we all knew to stay away from it when skating. I was given a hockey stick and I began to race up and down the road. I came to understand that this is what people meant when they said to make the best out of a bad situation.  
 
Half way through the third day, one of our neighbours came to visit us, to see how our family was doing. He came to give us one of his generators that he had found in his basement. But just before he left, the power had turned back on and the house erupted with light. The Christmas tree was ablaze.
 
Every one of us erupted in laughter and cheer and our neighbour rushed home to celebrate with his family.
 
It was that snowstorm that drew families together, giving them a real portrayal of love and empathy for one another. We can accomplish great things if we focus on working together. Thas snow storm helped us to relearn the message of Christmas, which Dr. Seuss said best – “ ‘Maybe Christmas’ he thought doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps… means a little bit more.” That Christmas was the best I have ever known. 
 
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