It was the evening of December 31, and typical of our volatile Michigan weather, the New Year rang in with a unique flavor.
We had spent the past several hours playing games with our children and neighboring friends. The adults had tissue-wrapped simple little prizes for New Year’s Bingo winners and the house was full of laughter and chatter interspersed with shouts of “BING-O!” An overflowing kitchen table held all kinds of homemade holiday treats and goodies while the fragrances of hot fudge brownies and pecan pie enticed us to overindulge, a prerequisite to our midnight resolutions for self-control for next year.
The atmosphere was relaxed and bubbly, the children still on Christmas Break and their parents enjoying the peace that can only come after the completion of holiday celebrations, shopping, pageants and reunions.
“TEN . . . NINE . . . EIGHT . . . SEVEN . . . SIX . . . FIVE . . . FOUR . . . THREE . . . TWO . . .ONE! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!”
After gently clinking our punch-filled crystal goblets together at this stroke of midnight, the party was winding down. Gathering up leftovers, children, cots, boots, mittens and scarves, gaily-wrapped stray packages, games, and more children, we were unprepared for the weather change that met our entry out into an eerie, surreal ice land.
Frothily dressed bushes, dazzling frozen drips hanging from bent over branches, sparkled against the black sky. Overhead, frozen tree limbs gracefully swayed against the horizon in the ice storm’s aftermath, their twigs and limbs encased in frozen tubes that lightly chinked each other, reminding me of our earlier toasts.
It was hard to grasp that this awesome change had taken place unbeknown to us and we paused in unified awe as one, our gazes illuminating the piles of snow that were frosted in smooth long strokes, pristine and glittering in the moonlight like a gigantic angel-food cake garnished with diamond-crusted meringue. Each of our mouths became a smoking chimney funnel as our breath steamed out into the crisp air, adding an uncanny stage effect to the still life encompassing us.
The houses, like Christmas village ceramic buildings, lay ensconced in square and rectangular plots in the snow. Thousands of filigree icicles danced across roof edges while bigger, thickened rods hung off the corners, sharp and pointed like tigers’ teeth. Telephone and cable wires swooped down across the whole like gigantic garlands, weighed down by double-inched ice layers. And the moon above us cast its glow, graced by millions of stars twinkling in the winter sky.
The pure white untouched blanket covering the ground stretched off forever into the distance, and it was with reluctance we made the first break into its layers of fluff, so pure and clean it seemed a desecration to disturb its surface.
And, it was as if all stood on tiptoe, pausing if for only a few moments like us, to recognize the evidence of God’s handiwork.
We marveled in whispers for a couple of minutes, as if talking aloud would break the spell of the enchanted surroundings, perfect in their quiet solitude. The children, straining at their bits, wriggled away from us into this wonderland, natural explorers examining yet another facet of nature.
Walking was impossible. You could slip, creep on all fours or join the younger ones sliding by the seats of their pants. We chose the latter and as a result, approached our home quicker than usual.
“Papa, look! Jack Frost came while we were away!” Johnny waded through the thigh-deep snowdrifts up the steps to our front door.
“Let me see, let me,” not-to-be-left-out little sister, Emily pleaded, trying to jump up to see over her brother’s shoulder.
Incredibly, an elaborate “J” was entwined with an equally eloquent “F” constructed out of tree twigs frozen inside the lighted glass of our doorpost lantern. This became a real phenomenon for the rest of the winter around our town, especially when even the January thaw did not melt the signage. There were skeptics, of course, and those who could not “see” the letters within the maze of twigs enclosed in our lamp. But to the believers, nothing could be plainer, particularly to the ones who had seen the ice storm up close and personal and all the beauty of God’s creation presented in such an unearthly, awesome style.
Yes, our autographed lamp became a real “ice-breaker” for those who stepped over our threshold that winter.
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