It’s a little late for Christmas stories but I’m going to tell one none the less. It’s not so much about Christmas but something that transpired around that festivity.
Our first Christmas on Wolfe Island, 2017, my mom came to stay with us. A week before her arrival, the pellet stove that heated the bedrooms stopped working. We were renting a large, historic farmhouse – my then four children and I. There was a second pellet stove in the kitchen. That kept us warm during the day but at night I was relying on the oil burning furnace until the other stove could be fixed.
As my mom and I headed to bed on Christmas Day, there was a chill in the air. Something was wrong with the furnace. My landlord was out of town for the holidays. I sent emails and text messages but heard nothing. After turning up the one pellet stove, I piled extra blankets onto the children who were all sound asleep.
The next day, I traveled to the mainland and bought a space heater. “We’re like pioneers,” my mother said when I apologized for the situation. “Like Little House on the Prairie.”
Before setting off for this unknown terrain, I’d read the book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my daughters. It illuminated a belief I’d had since childhood, I can do it. I can weather the storms. I’m not sure if reading the books as a child is what caused it or the feeling was always there, simply encouraged by the stories. I realized this was it, the adventure I’d always longed for.
My girls wrapped themselves in blankets and sat by the fire. The boys ran around the dining room in winter boots and coats. It wasn’t how I’d pictured the holidays transpiring. We were weathering the storm.
“Next year you’ll be in your own house,” my mother reminded me before she left.
In the midst of this crisis, I was holding on to hope that the latest house I’d put an offer in on would soon be ours.
As my mother left, an old friend came to visit with her children. She watched the kids so I could meet with the realtor and contractor. Their verdict shifted my hope. Completing renovations on the nearly finished house would be more complicated than originally thought. The investment wasn’t a wise one after all.
Facing the all consuming struggle to keep everyone warm, fed, and happy, I let the dream of that house die. The kitchen I walked into was blazing. The pellet stove was on high in hopes of heat reaching the far corners of the house. The room was startling after the frigid outdoors. We were in the midst of a record breaking cold spell.
My friend and her children left. The landlord finally responded. He contacted a furnace repair company. Within 10mins of arriving the technician had the furnace working again. The stress of survival faded as we once again had heat. The solution had been so simple and nearly instant.
I was thankful to have been cheered by friends and family through the ordeal. I settled into bed, warm that night and dreaming of being in my own house by next Christmas. It was a seemingly impossible idea. I’d put an offer in on every house within my price range. Each had complications that caused me to withdraw my offer after the inspections were complete. At that point, we were out of options.
This year, I woke up to our second Christmas in our lovely house. My mother was with us. It all turned out just fine. In June 2018 I bought a house on Wolfe Island. Remembering that first Christmas, I could feel the weight of the hope that held me. There was nothing airy about it. I remained captive to the assurance that somehow things would work out. Even when it didn’t look possible there was this shelter – a fortress – protecting the hope I’d shackled myself to.
The freezing Christmas of 2017 passed. However, the fortress and hope remain. Once more, I find myself taking up residence in this familiar place. There are situations before me this year bearing the mark of impossible. I’m ready to once more see the impossible become possible.