A Rose for Christmas

Pretty much everything planned for our Christmas unraveled this year.

Let’s start with the weather, which was supposed — ahead of the fact — to be a major impediment to everyone’s travel plans across half of Colorado and many points west. In places it must have been, and we had our moments here in Gunnison, but the forecast that called for inch upon inch of Christmas snow? About as wrong as it could get.

I have been off on my days for a week, so I might be giving you bad information now, but I think the snow started, as called for, the afternoon of the 23rd, which maybe on some calendars was Thursday. James, Kara and I, rushing to get beverage shirts (for coffee and liquor stores) out before the holiday, made logistical plans for all the shoveling that would need to be done while the shop was closed Friday through Sunday, and I made sure to turn the heat cable on for the roof to aid with drainage.

By the time Oz and I wandered outside around midnight, there were a couple new inches on the ground, but the breeze was lifting and what was pelting us felt a lot more like straight water. By the time Lynn got up a few hours later, she heard it running off the roof.

What we had by the time the sun broke on Christmas Eve was massive slush. It snained and snained all day, the temperature inching ever toward 40 (Fahrenheit), and by midday the slush had disappeared on asphalt surfaces (we still have a layer congealed to our dirt roads here at Riverwalk) and everything was soaking wet.

Denver meteorologist Ashton Altieri was beside himself — when the internet was functional and we could see him — because Crested Butte, a mere 28 miles to the north, was leading the state in snowfall, with 20 inches deposited overnight 23rd/24th, and more coming down all day.

The State of Colorado, which struggles mightily with its websites, once upon a time had a great service in the form of cotrip,org. It showed all the roads in the state with their travel conditions. Plus, you could click on any camera anywhere on the map and see for yourself what the weather was doing along any given highway. And now, after a revamp that allegedly makes it more cellphone friendly but clutters up a computer screen massively, you can’t see road conditions, and only about three cameras on I-70 were offering actual pictures. When our internet was working.

So I couldn’t see what South Park looked like, nor Monarch Pass, nor Crested Butte. Yesterday I found the “pow cams” at skicb.com, from which I deduced that the Butte got another eight inches throughout the 24th, which I feel reasonably certain was Friday.

Which is good, as long as they can keep their temperatures down, but all we got was an ugly snain that washed away much of the preliminary snow and laid down a layer of ice in front of our garage that will likely be on this north-facing area for months. (Don’t suggest salt — I used that the first winter here and pitted brand-new concrete so readily it has me a bit concerned about the long-term viability of our foundation.)

This wetness is likely what triggered an avalanche that closed Monarch Pass for several hours on the 24th, which was the day family members from Arvada were scheduled to arrive here. But we didn’t really need to worry about that, because covid had already cancelled those plans.

My niece Ellie, who currently lives with her aunt Terri, and Terri both tested positive early last week. Ellie had such mild symptoms they were mistaken for allergies; Terri is still recuperating although her congestion is gone. Her husband Michael, who turned up two negative home tests and a negative PCR test before finally going positive, got a miserable fever that fortunately only lasted a couple days, although he is still wiped out.

My parents also opted to stay in place in Arvada, which let them run errands and fix a holiday turkey dinner for Terri and Michael, left on the doorstep. Ellie waited until the avalanche was cleared on Monarch and made it to her parents’ house east of Gunnison on the 24th, where she tested negative upon arrival.

In the meantime, I had not one but two people I’d been in close contact on Wednesday report Thursday that they were sick. Their home tests turned up negative, but mindful of Terri’s one negative and what turned out to be three for Michael, I cancelled remaining plans for gathering with others.

One of those plans had called for going to my sister Tia’s new house on Christmas, and it turns out just as well this didn’t take place. A few days before the holiday she reported that her brand-new oven was non-functional. She had a small oven she could use, but none of her baking was getting done. Then, Christmas morning, their carbon monoxide detectors went off, sending them out into what fortunately was not a cold, snowy morning as predicted, but one that was around 40 and sunny.

The fire department was eventually able to determine that the range had been hooked up for natural gas rather than the propane that actually fuels it, so it wasn’t burning efficiently enough to ignite. All I can say is, it’s a very good thing CO detectors are a required part of new construction. If you don’t have any in your house, you should go get some today.

So nothing went as planned — except for one bright spot. My good friend Matt’s daughter Rose, one month arrived in Denver for her job, had wanted to come to Gunnison to visit three of her childhood friends who are here visiting their parents for the holidays.

We invited her to spend Christmas with us, and when it looked like the weather was going to render travel difficult, I suggested she come ahead of it. That did put her here before I found out everyone I talked to on Wednesday was potentially contagious — although at least one of them was feeling better by Friday — but so far the three of us remain symptom-free.

Rose came with two kinds of sweetbreads and shortbread cookies — some of her first high-altitude baking — and has even offered to make pizza. She hadn’t been here but half an hour before Na Ki’o (who had his own miserable Christmas, since he persists in eating dog food that makes him sick as a dog even if he’s a cat), always wary of strangers, was tucked against her knee with Oz under her feet and even Marrakesh close by.

Rose brought a shining point to some days that otherwise have certainly not gone as planned, and made the holiday seem festive. If you need one thing to go right to make life seem better, I can heartily recommend you find yourself a Rose for Christmas.

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