Our Holiday Disaster

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Debby White. She is an active member of the Vernonia Library group in Vernonia, Oregon.

Gertrude blew a strand of hair from her face as she peeled the small mountain of potatoes destined for mashing. She gave a quick glance to the clock on the oven. Ten a.m. The day’s agenda ran through her mind as the peeler continued to work it’s way through the mound. The turkey will be ready in an hour, kids and grandkids should arrive any minute. Dinner rolls should go in the oven in about forty five minutes. Harry, her husband of 30 years, was watching a loud Thanksgiving day football game in the living room, making an appearance in the kitchen only when he needed a warm up for his coffee.

Outside the wind whipped the rain around frequently throwing it against the windows, tree branches swaying as if throwing a tantrum.

“Quite a storm out there.” Gertrude jumped. Harry chuckled behind her. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, reaching for the coffee pot to fill his cup for the fifth or sixth time.

Gertrude sighed, “I hope we don’t lose power. The turkey still needs almost another hour in the oven, then there’s the dinner rolls. Lots of food in the fridge that could go bad if the electricity’s out for a long time.”

“Don’t panic, honey,” Harry patted her shoulder. “Remember that’s why we spent all that money on the generator. Out here in the boondocks we lose power at the drop of a hat. With the generator life goes on as usual.”

They both turned at the sound of voices in the entryway. Seconds later they had little grandchildren arms wrapped around their legs. Sadie, their oldest daughter, planted a kiss first on Gertrude’s cheek then Harry’s. “Jack and Nikki drove up behind us,” Sadie said of her brother and his wife. “Nate is helping them carry stuff in.” Nate being Sadie’s husband.

Minutes later the women and children were gathered in the kitchen and the guys convened in the living room to finish watching the football game. Gertrude finished peeling the potatoes and Sadie and Nikki set the table while dodging little Nate and Jillian. Suddenly, everything went black. From the living room a chorus of “Hey, what happened?” was heard as the TV went blank. Gertrude raced into the living room, with a panicked look on her face. “We’ve lost power!” she exclaimed.

“Just wait thirty seconds. The generator will kick in.” They all stood around looking at each other for those thirty seconds waiting, waiting.

“Shouldn’t the generator have kicked in by now?” Gertrude asked a short time later. “Doesn’t it seem like half a minute has passed?”

“Give it a little more time. I’m sure it will come on,” Harry assured his agitated wife.

Once again they stood silently waiting, watching the clock on the mantle. A full minute passed then Harry sighed and said, “Yep, should have kicked on by now. I’ll go see what’s wrong.”

All three men donned rain gear and boots and trudged outside to inspect the generator. Several minutes later Harry, Nate and Jack came back in, leaving a puddle trail in their wake.

“Well, we know why the generator didn’t kick on,” Harry said looking at the other two men. Gertrude waited, arms crossed over her chest. “There’s no propane in the big tank.”

Gertrude’s jaw dropped. “But the company is supposed to fill it every few months.”

“It would appear they dropped the ball on the last delivery,” Harry said.

Gertrude was irritated by his calm demeanor. “So call them and get them here, now!” she said, voice raised.

Sadie placed her hand on her mother’s shoulder. “Mom,” she said softly, “It’s Thanksgiving Day. Nobody will be in the office to take a call, much less make deliveries. I’m afraid we will just have to figure something out.”

Nikki piped up from the back of the room. “The grill.”

Gertrude turned and looked at her daughter in law as if she had grown horns. “The grill,” Nikki said again. “We can finish the turkey on there and eventually the dinner rolls too. We can cook the potatoes on the side burner and mash them with a good, old fashioned potato masher. It will take some juggling but I think we can manage it.”

Gertrude flung her arms around Nikki. “That’s genius,” she squealed.

Suddenly the household became a flurry of activity. Harry ran out to light the grill while Gertrude, Nikki and Sadie discussed how to cook a turkey on a grill. Fortunately, the power outage didn’t affect the ability of their smartphones to Google the topic. The potatoes were peeled and ready to be put in a pot later, however, no electricity meant the well pump wouldn’t operate, which meant no water, so Jack and Nate took a large container out to the well house and filled it from the holding tank. Soon the potatoes were on their way to boiling on the grill’s side burner.

Later, after the food was laid out and everyone was gathered around the table, Gertrude looked at each dear face and realized that what started out as a disaster ended up being a lesson in just how blessed she truly was.

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