Weather doesn’t trip up traditions

op coxWhen we wake up on Christmas Eve, it is nearly 70 degrees and raining so hard that when our miniature dachshund is about to go out for his morning trip to the bathroom, he takes a look up at me instead as if to say, “Are you kidding me, man? No thanks, I’ll just hold it.” What he means, of course, is that he will go back to bed just long enough for us to jump in the shower or start making breakfast, whereupon he will find a nice, quiet room somewhere in the house and surreptitiously relieve himself on the leg of a chair, reappearing minutes later, with another look that says, “No worries, mate. That room is all clear and secure.”

I can’t really blame him for not wanting to pee in this weather. It is raining so hard that rivers all over the county are overflowing their banks, flooding pastures and roads and basements and anything else not situated on high ground. People on Facebook post terrifying photos of angry, swollen rivers tearing through trees and over bridges. Put one foot in that current, you risk being swept away. Someone posts a video of some poor, deranged soul trying to drive through what must be 15 inches of water on some road near the Tuckasegee River in Sylva, maybe for some last minute Christmas shopping.

I need to get off of Facebook. It is Christmas Eve, and we have been doing our best to get in the Christmas spirit for the past few days, though the warm temperatures and dreary skies have made it seem more like late April then late December. The trees certainly think so, with so many of them budding and about to blossom, probably by New Year’s Day if it doesn’t freeze before then.

 “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” my daughter yells as she flashes into the living room. “Would you please turn on Ella Fitzgerald? It is time to make some Christmas cookies!”

Like so many families, we have our own little Christmas traditions. One is the more or less constant playing of the album, “Ella Fitzgerald Wishes You a Swinging Christmas” during the Christmas season. My daughter knows this album song for song and note for note. Once in a while, I might sneak in a little “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” if I am feeling a bit of nostalgia for my own childhood Christmas memories. But the kids much prefer Ella and will endure old Charlie Brown for a song or two until pestering me to switch it back, switch it back, switch it back.

We’ve got some family coming over in a few hours for a Christmas Eve lunch, and then we will head on to church for a Christmas Eve service at 4 pm.  Somewhere, we need to find some time to watch “The Andy Griffith Show” Christmas episode in which mean, old Ben Weaver gets himself locked up on purpose so that he can celebrate Christmas with Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee, Opie, and the beautiful lady druggist, Ellie Walker. Watching this episode is another Christmas tradition.

But first the cookies and Ella. Tammy appears from the bedroom, groggy and in need of coffee. She looks like she would kill an elf if one got between her and the Keurig.

 “Mama, Mama, Mama,” my daughter says, suddenly materializing in the kitchen. “Are you ready to bake some Christmas cookies?”

Before she can fully register this question, our son appears on the other side of her.

“Mama, Mama, Mama,” he says. “Do you know what day this is?”

She looks at him blankly, fumbling for a pod of Starbucks, high test.

“Everybody knows what day this is,” I call out from the living room. “It’s Thursday!”

This elicits predictable shrieks of disgust from both children.

The phone rings. It is a lady from Creature Comforts, where we are boarding our dog while we are out of town to see more family on Christmas day and night. She informs us that County Road near Lake Junaluska is closed due to flooding. We’ll need to come another way.

I stand out on the deck in my pajama bottoms and a tee shirt and watch the rain pelt our backyard. Not a creature is stirring. Even the squirrels and birds have taken shelter wherever they can find it.

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful …”

But I am thinking of another song, one by Led Zeppelin, not the first band I think of for Christmas music.

“If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s gonna break.”

When I step back inside, I can smell that first batch of sugar cookies, fresh out of the oven. The kids and Tammy are hunched over them like a team of mad scientists, decorating them with green and red icing.

“Here, Daddy,” my daughter says, offering me a bell-shaped cookie. “You decorate this one.”

Instead, I take a huge bite, nearly half the cookie, which results in another round of groans.

It may not be a white Christmas, just like the ones we used to know, but it is still Christmas. I grab a tube of red icing and go to work on a stocking-shaped cookie.

Ella informs us that Santa Claus is coming to town. I expect he will, even if he comes in on a boat instead of a sleigh.

(Contact Chris Cox at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Go to top