‘Tis the Morning Before Christmas


Jacqulyn Jahnke

Editor’s note: To celebrate Christmas, the Times Herald invited several local authors to submit holiday-related articles for publication. Here are their submissions.

In 1983 we borrowed my mother-in-law’s car for a short time. She had just installed an engine heater in it. Now imagine this: Our cars and hers are in our driveway with the radiators of all three cars almost touching so the three engine heaters are connected to the same extension cord. I’d hidden my husband’s gift, a fire extinguisher, at Mom’s house …

‘Tis the morning before Christmas and inside is cozy and nice

Outdoors is 30 below and everything’s ice!

Too cold to stir or for vehicles to even groan

Car heaters are plugged in at 3 in the morn.

At 4 in the morn a funny odor fills the house

We know in our hearts it isn’t a mouse.

With John on his bedside and me on mine

We think it is a wire and should be defined.

As I pass the window, I think “How bright it is outside”

Then we see the flames shooting across the cold, cold sky.

The best to be done in this awful ado

Is dial the fire house and give them the news.

Just run up the steps as fast as we dare

Don’t think of the extinguisher, hid in good care.

Wake all the children with calm and no jokes

Help them into their socks, their shoes and their coats.

Remembering outside it’s 30 below

We seven rush with dread and with woe.

As smoky fumes fill the crisp morning air

The engine comes blaring as fast as it dares.

We know in a moment we might be all right

If the keys to the Buick were plainly in sight.

With two cars burning against a winter morn sky

The third starts right up to be moved to the side.

The firemen douse the VW and Toyota

I hope against hope the nightmare is over.

With the children once again all tucked in their beds

We survey the mess — what to do next?

So we give a Florida friend a call

To practice what to say to my mother-in-law.

Should we tell her first not to worry

About her VW ever starting again if she’s in a hurry?

Or should we be practical and tell her with flare and no shame

The Buick started with no trouble from the heat of the flames.

After the wrecker came to haul away the mess,

John’s sister sees the ashes and asks, “Is that all that’s left?”

When the calls are made and excuses accepted

In less than 12 hours 40 guests are expected.

The fire is out and no one is hurting

The house is made ready with everyone working.

When our guests arrive, they all agree –

we received the best Christmas present of all

We lost two cars, but we have our lives…

And our warm, cozy house still stands tall.

Merry Christmas to all!