South Dakota and its neighbors certainly ended 2009 with a white Christmas. A very white Christmas. Inches and inches of white Christmas. (It isn't really an accident that Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas" when he was in Beverly Hills, where his dream wasn't about to come true.)
Most of my family were among those who had a much whiter Christmas than they really would have preferred. Some of them, including my parents, were without power for at least a day. At least a lifetime on a farm has taught them to be prepared for bad weather, so they got out the camp stove for cooking and set up the lawn chairs near the propane heater in the utility room. Their biggest problem was the snowdrift that filled up their back porch and blocked the door. Shoveling out took a couple of days even after my nephew opened a path for them.
An aunt and uncle spent hours in the Sioux Falls and Denver airports, finally making it to their Montana destination at about 4:00 a.m. Their stories about the adventure didn't even mention being tired, hungry, or frustrated with the delays; they were too busy describing the wonderful way they were treated by kind strangers.
One sister's family (two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four small children) all made it to her house for Christmas—where they all got snowed in for three days. It's a good thing they're a family that likes to give books, games, and puzzles as gifts.
Other family members emailed notes about the snow that fell sideways and pictures of the huge drifts they had to shovel.
And my Christmas blizzard story? Mostly through luck and a little bit through good timing, we missed the storm completely. We drove from Rapid City to Denver on Christmas Eve, slipping in behind the big storm, and had mostly dry roads. The day after Christmas, we drove to southern New Mexico on completely dry roads.
Most people would say that was a good thing, and I would be forced to agree. Still, I feel as if we wimped out. Never mind that our trip was planned weeks earlier and the timing was coincidental. I still feel a bit guilty, as if we deserted our homeland and our hard-shoveling friends and family during a time of need.
Oh, we had snow here in New Mexico, too. About four inches fell on Tuesday. All of it had melted by mid-morning on Wednesday. No storm, no inconvenience, no shoveling, and no problems expected when we head north again on Saturday.
Of course, by the time we get home, all the snow in our long, sloping driveway will have had time to settle in. The drifts will have melted a little and frozen a little. By the time we finish shoveling a hundred feet of hard-crusted white Christmas, I bet I won't feel the least bit guilty anymore.