A young girl wearing Minnie Mouse pyjamas skated through the lobby elevator while shrieking and windmilling her arms. She was wearing bright white roller skates with pink glittering wheels.
Her mother yelled out, grinning slightly through her teeth, “Merry Christmas.”
Watertown, New York, to be exact. The town (nearly) forgot Christmas.
A seven-hour journey from Washington, DC, to friends’ house in Canada ended just a few tantalising minutes from the border, and we ended up here.
Elliott caught up to us.
Our path had been clear according to the radar, but as Brits who have lived in the US for the previous seven years, we are well aware that the weather here is rarely predictable.
We limped to the closest town, where we discovered one of those ubiquitous US interstate-side chain hotels, passing by abandoned vehicles, downed power lines, and even pulled-over police cars in almost complete darkness. The inn had space available. One, “Room.”
We seized it. We were there with the kids and the dogs.
Numerous power line workers who had been dispatched to assist in restoring electricity to the thousands of people without it were present in the lobby; some of them had travelled from Texas (a 30-hour trip).
One told me that he had been climbing a pole when it broke under his weight because it was so brittle from the -34C temps. Although he fell into a drift, he was told to stay inside for the rest of the day.
The hotel had some food available, and servers had the graciousness to offer it to us while donning Santa hats.
With what was left in the bar and “plenty of ice,” they even made an effort at a “Christmas drink.”
The windows were shattered by the blizzard outside. After hesitantly making their way outside to relieve themselves, our dogs had to be taken back inside since the ice had burned their feet.
People told us about their backgrounds and future plans as we gathered around the fire by the front desk. A young man showed me a small square box in his rucksack as he was walking to his girlfriend’s house.
Instead, he suggested, it will be a New Year’s Eve proposal.
The hotel’s chef had worked four nights and four days straight. In case they couldn’t bring someone else in to take his place, they didn’t want him to leave. The benefit? He claimed that since there wasn’t much food left, there wasn’t much to prepare.
In contrast to many others caught in this once-in-a-generation storm, we camped out overnight and were kept warm and safe.
The morning of Christmas has come. Although they are upset, my teens are resigned and understand, so I’m glad they are not as little as the young child with the roller skates.
Have you received those amazing skates from Santa? As the young girl rolled by laughing, I questioned her.
Yes, she replied. He was aware that he needed to deliver them here rather than to Auntie Pat’s.
I gave her mother a look that only mothers of young children at Christmas could have understood.