The Cold and Warm of Christmas

Winter Mountain

The Cold and Warm of Christmas


My grandparents’ house was wonderful in all the glorious western NC mountain seasons. Delightfully fragrant and warm springs, temperate sunny summers, chilly and colorful autumns and cold bright winters. Oh, the winters with snow and ice and majestic mountaintops covered in snow. You do have to know, before I go any further, that my grandparents had a lovely old home that had few “modern” improvements, like central heating. The whole house was “heated” by a Ziegler oil burning heater that was in the living room. Once fully engaged on “high” the living room reached a temperature just south of the temperature required to combust paper into raging fires. At that precise moment, however, the furthest reaches of the house might reach 65 degrees. Much of our time was spent moving from room to room to keep from heat stroke or hypothermia. And I LOVED it.


My favorite annual moment was around Christmas when I would visit my grandparents just as soon as we were released from school for the winter break. I spent all my Christmas vacation with my grandparents. During the days before my parents came for Christmas, I would sleep in the living room. I only required pajamas and slippers to be warm and comfortable. Once my parents and sister came, we would use the back bedroom which had two beds. This is where the wonderful cold story comes in. How to paint this picture? I will start with a pitcher, actually. My grandmother, the southern belle that she was, would fill the pitcher with cold, clean mountain spring water and place a face towel beside it on the end table. The point, of course, is that you could freshen up by washing your face and toweling off. Simple concept. Except. Once the sun went down, the bedroom door got closed, the Ziegler was turned down to “low” ….and the water in the pitcher would freeze over with a light crust of ice on the surface. No washing for me!


We were wonderfully warm, mostly, under 2 or 3 electric blankets that my grandmother supplied to the room. The electrical outlets looked like octopi attached to the walls but I never remember us blowing a fuse. The only cold you ever felt was if a part of you fell out from underneath the covers; well, that and your face of course was totally frozen unless you kept it under the covers. On Christmas Eve, my sister and I would eventually allow a peaceful sleep to overtake us all until we heard noises from the living room. Once awakened, to find us alone in the bedroom and hearing shouts from the living room, we jumped from the warm beds onto the frozen floor and scampered across to the bedroom door. We would always turn to each other, grab the doorknob with all four hands, turn the knob and tumble into the living room. And what a sight always greeted us!


Presents, smiles, love, compassion, wonder and gratitude. I can honestly say that it did not matter much then, and none at all now, what actual gifts I received. I remember the feelings. Those wonderful, happy, satiated, peaceful and safe feelings. Even in the face of social progress, advancements and human achievement, nothing can match the love of a family united in giving and caring. And I still love the cold.


Story Shared By:
Kevin Stewman, Partner
Stewman Booker & Love Law

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