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I was a college student, home for Christmas break. Mid-terms over. Days off and did it ever feel good to be home, home on the family farm where everything was cozy, comfortable and familiar.
Mom had the house glimmering, the fridge and freezer stuffed with baking, cheese ball, lefse, and assorted delights, and, as the youngest, it was just going to be the 3 of us until the rest of crew arrived for supper Christmas day.
It was Christmas Eve and Mom and I spent the better part the day cooking and singing along to Bing Crosby on CJWW. We noticed the wind start to pick up, but, we weren’t alarmed or surprised, after all this was a prairie winter’s day. Cold, always windy and a storm at a moment’s notice. No newsflash there.
When 7:00 rolled around and Dad still hadn’t come in from doing chores, Mom dispatched me to find him.
Great, I thought, with the insolent huff that an 18-year-old girl has perfected. I put on my snowmobile boots, parka, toque, mittens and scarf and, accompanied by the family pooch, headed out towards the barnyard.
Stepping into that bitter air I nearly lost my breath. Getting to the end of the walkway I realized that it was much worse then I had realized. A quick pinch of dread gripped my stomach. Boots, our yellow Lab, stayed nearby, stopped often, looking back as if to say, “you coming?” It seemed to take forever to reach the barnyard, a distance of oh, 8 car lengths. A distance I’d walked many times, nearly every day of my life.
Bunching my scarf up against my face and thrusting my shoulders forward, we trudged on through the snow. I could make out a light in the distance and I assumed Dad had to be in one of the cow barns.
As we got closer, I heard a strange noise. The wind was whipping at me, making biting attempts at my face, while the dog pressed his flanks to me as if to press me forward.
As we neared the barn entrance, I heard that sound again.
A high-pitched whirring.
What the ?
Battling the winds, I braced my shoulder against the sliding door and gave it a shove with everything I had in me. It moved. Barely. But enough that I could squeeze through.
I stepped into the warmth of the barn to find my father there, kneeling in the straw. I heard that weird whirring sound again. A hair dryer? Really? A cow stood just behind him, watching as he calmly defrosted the ears of a calf who’d had the misfortune to be born head first into the snow. She licked her baby while he cooed comforting words, gently blowing warmed air all over that little shivering animal. The light of the barn shone down as Dad shot me that shy grin that I knew so well.
“Well if you’re gonna stand there you might as well be useful.” And, with that, he handed me some towels. I moved a little too quickly and the new mother stepped forward, unsure of my intentions. Dad put his hand up to steady her.. and me.. and with a “shhh … it’s ok now, we’re just here to help.” I waited …then slowly stepped forward, kneeling to join him in the straw, and gingerly, helped dry the quaking baby.
A few moments passed when he looked me in the eye and said, “You know it was a stable like this where our little Christ child was born. There was no room in the inn and guess where they had to make their home? Out in the barn with all the cows and other animals. And no one ever talks about them, how they provided heat and how they helped make sure He wasn’t cold.”
A kind-hearted and lovely man who worked the farm every day of his life. A man who cleaned up and sometimes attended church to appease my mother but really .. he already knew God.
He found Him where he was.
No Christmas Eve has ever impacted me like that one did.