Appalachian Writers Christmas Holidays in Appalachia

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Today’s guest post was written by Matthew Burns and was originally published on his blog Appalachian Lifestyles on December 15, 2008.

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Recently Tipper over at The Blind Pig and The Acorn featured a post about Christmas music and she asked readers what is their favorite Christmas song. I thought about it a little bit and then it dawned on me, my favorite Christmas song is “I’ll be Home for Christmas”. I thought I’d share with y’all how this became my favorite song.

Every Christmas Eve, my wife Shirley and I travel from her family’s home in Wyoming County in southern WV to my family’s home in Pendleton County in the Potomac Highlands of WV. The drive takes about 4 to 5 hours if the weather is good. Since Shirley’s family opens gifts on Christmas Eve and my family opens gifts on Christmas Day, we are able to be with both of our families for Christmas…although it means spending most of Christmas Eve on the road.

Smith_creek_from_darlene_wilton
Pendleton County snowy road (Courtesy of Darlene Wilton)

I recall watching the weather before we left that day, and it was calling for a bad snowstorm to hit on Christmas Eve, but in southern WV it was just rain so we thought we’d be okay. So we left Wyoming County about 4 p.m. and started up the road. We were making pretty good time but about halfway home just as we got into the mountains, we drove into snow. It looked just like a wall of snow, one minute we were in rain and the next we were in a blizzard. I turned to Shirley and said “Okay Rudolph, full power” quoting one of her favorite Christmas cartoons. We took it easy on the now bad roads and were making progress on our trip, albeit we were really going slow now.

In the back of both of our minds we were dreading the worst part of the trip which lay ahead of us. You see, there are four big mountains after we get off the interstate, and sure enough the further we went into the mountains, the worse the roads got. On the first mountain, which is usually the least treacherous of all of them, there were several accidents and the road was blocked. There were cars in the ditch and big rigs jack-knifed all over the roads. It looked like Hermie and Rudolph weren’t going to get through. The state troopers were there and were telling people to go back to Elkins and spend the night because the road was going to be closed until they got the worst of the wrecks cleared up. They expected it to be several hours if not overnight. Well, I insisted to Shirley that we wait for a little while and see if things changed, I didn’t want to miss being with my family on Christmas.

Germany_valley_wintertime
Germany Valley, Pendleton County winter

After what seemed like an eternity there was no change in the road conditions and it all looked very bleak. I was beginning to realize that I was probably going to have to spend my first Christmas away from my family on the mountain. I decided to check the weather one last time to see if there were any updates on the situation, so I turned on the radio. The song that was playing was “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, and it was especially poignant to me when it got to the part “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams”. The radio offered no news that I wanted to hear and I was beginning to face reality and admitted that we were probably going to have to turn back towards Elkins.

Just when we were discussing where to stay in Elkins, we heard something coming up the mountain. There was a sound of “jing…jing…jing…jing”, it was either sleigh bells or road chains, and I told Shirley it was either Santy Claus or a snowplow. The sound kept getting louder and it was getting closer. A few moments later, we saw the lights of a snowplow and it was scraping the road and throwing down cinders. It cleaned the road around the wrecks just enough for our little car to get through. I went up to assess the newly plowed road and told the State Troopers that I thought I could get through and that I was going to try it. The State police tried to talk me out of it, and tried to warn me of the danger and they told me that if I wrecked I’d probably have to wait until morning to get assistance. I was concerned but I grew up driving in snow so I was confident in my driving, it was just everyone else that I was worried about. So, I got in the car and drove right through those wrecks in the newly plowed road. Behind me, several other cars decided to follow me, but the very next car behind me couldn’t get through the road and got stuck and once again blocked the road. So we were alone and for the next 15 miles or so, we never so much as saw the first vehicle. We were driving on roads that were covered with snow, and we were making our own road as we went.

After crossing the 3rd mountain, the snow immediately stopped and once again we drove into rain again, which was odd because usually the last two mountains are the worst. I’ve never seen a storm like that since, it was like someone shut off the “snow switch”. From there to where we started up the last mountain where home is, we didn’t have snow. It was once again snowing on the mountain at home, but it wasn’t all that bad, probably only 2 or 3 inches on the road. We made it home just as everyone was going to bed…the trip took us nearly nine hours. I remember blowing the car horn as we pulled up the driveway, and hollering out the window, “Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas Clark!”, quoting Cousin Eddie from the Christmas Vacation movie. I was just ecstatic!

My parents were shocked that I had made it across the mountains, they had been listening to the police scanner all night, and it was reporting that the mountains were blocked and no traffic was getting through. Mom said that Dad commented to her when they heard the report on the police scanner, “I’ll bet that it is killing Babe not being able to get home.” (Yes, my nickname is Babe!) My one little cousin was the only one of them that hadn’t given up hope, and she wasn’t at all shocked when Shirley and I pulled up the driveway. I remember she kept saying, “I told you all that Matthew would be here for Christmas. I told you he wouldn’t miss it.”

I know the Lord was travelling with us that night, and He answered my prayers in getting us home that snowy Christmas Eve. Ever since then, my favorite Christmas song has been “I’ll be Home for Christmas” because it reminds me of my very own Christmas miracle that occurred along a snowy roadside in the mountains of West Virginia.

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Hope you enjoyed Matthew’s snowy Christmas story as much as I did-leave him a comment and I’ll make sure he reads it!

Tipper

 

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    B F
    July 27, 2012 at 8:14 am

    matthew certainly had a miracle and i think he knew where that miracle came from ,
    i,m glad that when something like this happens we realize who comes to the rescue
    right on Matthew

  • Reply
    Becky
    January 2, 2011 at 10:28 am

    This reminds me of my own Christmas’s in WV. A true Christmas miracle. A Christmas memory to last a lifetime.
    Beautiful!!

  • Reply
    Matthew Burns
    December 26, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks Tipper for posting my story on The Blind Pig & The Acorn. It truly was a Christmas gift that I will never forget. I saw it on Christmas eve just before we left Shirley’s homeplace and I printed it out, told everybody that it was on The Blind Pig & The Acorn (i.e. the best Appalachian blog on the internet) and read it to everyone, and then took the story home to the mountain and read it there, too. We all had a good time reminiscing about Christmases past and about the storms that seem to close off the mountains during this time of year. Though it happened only a few years ago, this story sure made the memories flow.
    Thanks again Tipper for including my story on your blog, and thanks to everyone who left all the wonderful comments. It is truly inspiring for writers to read your wonderful comments. God Bless each and every one of you all, and I hope everyone has the joy of Christmas with them all year long.
    Matthew
    P.S. We made it home again for Christmas this year, and the roads were clear. The seemingly annual Christmas snow didn’t arrive until late on Christmas night.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    December 26, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Good story! Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth K
    December 25, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    The magic of Christmas, great story!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    We’re having a White Christmas….
    in Roane Cty, East Tennessee..
    When we left this morning….early…all the cows in the pasture were laying down facing East on the hill and it was snowing then…..I can’t recall them doing that before on the hill…but they will lay down under the trees on the low spots in the pasture in the summer…

  • Reply
    Rachelle
    December 25, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Tipper, really enjoyed the story, haven’t been on here much lately, But just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year before we loose power in my neck of the woods, we have 8 inches and still snowing… Oh I LOVE IT!!!!!!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 25, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Wonderful story,
    Thanks Tipper for bringing the story to us and thank you Matthew for writing and sharing…
    I wonder how many folks are trying to get home for Christmas tonight…Pretty snowy across the country. I have everything about ready to go to our sons for Christmas….but the snow and ice are supposed to be here by morning so we may be late…their roads go up hill both ways..LOL
    Merry Christmas to all…

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    December 24, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    We all want to be home for Christmas if we have a home to go to. I was home with my parents every Christmas from the time I was born until they passed away.
    All their children where with them at Christmas. How selfish I was, because my sweet husband couldn’t be with his parents on Christmas if he was going to be with me.
    But we did see his folks during Christmas holidays.
    Matthews story is a good one. Held my interest from beginning to end.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    December 24, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Oh, my! What a Christmas journey!
    I hope everyone is safe where they need to be just now — and a merry Christmas to all!

  • Reply
    Judith Alef
    December 24, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Hello Tipper! Wonderful story even through the tears. “I’ll be home for Christmas” is near to my heart. Always wished I could change the ‘if only in my dreams’ part but that was my destiny. I love seeing everyone’s photos of home and their landscapes. Here’s wishing you and your whole family a wonderful gathering of food and folk gathered in the Spirit of Christmas. And, a Happy New Year too.

  • Reply
    Bradley
    December 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Tipper,
    I thoroughly enjoyed Matthew’s story. It was so well written. This one sure puts one in the mood for Christmas! His powers of description have just about froze me to death! However,the ending was good. Nothing like a good story. You sure know a lot of talented people Tipper.
    Merry Christmas,
    Bradley

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 24, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    What a remarkable story of faith and self reliance. It’s a real Christmas inspiration…….Thanks Babe!

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    December 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Tipper: great story,ive been in storms like that. i never want another. now i go home a month ahead of time . also one of my favorite songs “i,ll be home for Christmas” bless all your family this Christmas. a friend k.o.h

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    December 24, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I enjoyed reading this again Matthew – you wrote it and it takes the reader on the ride with y’all! I always enjoy reading Matthew’s stories though! Merry Christmas to Matthew and family and to Tipper and family. It looks as if we are going to have a white Christmas — and us without a four-wheel drive. So, I may just go spend the night with my mother — can’t let my 84 yr old mother be alone on Christmas. Merry CHRISTmas to all!

  • Reply
    Rick
    December 24, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Merry Christmas to you and yours Tipper
    from,
    Whitetail Woods Blog / Deer Hunting and Blackpowder Shooting at it’s best.

  • Reply
    Ken
    December 24, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Tipper,
    That’s a nice story of the yearning to be home for Christmas.
    I love driving in the snow, when I
    have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. When
    my girls were little we tried to go to “home” sometime during the
    Christmas Season. There’s just that special feeling of ‘going home.’ Thanks Matthew! …Ken

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 24, 2010 at 10:21 am

    OK TIPPER!!! You have got to stop sending these wonderful stories that I have trouble reading because of my tears! I shall send this to one sad brother, in Afghanistan! I know he is sad BUT he has not said so!
    Love, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    J E Smith
    December 24, 2010 at 10:06 am

    The song I’ll be home for Christmas is one of my favorities as I spent many Christmases in far away places serving in the United States Air Force. Please remember our troops and their families this holiday season. Their sacifies are what keep us free.
    “I say a small prayer each morning,
    Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts the perform fur us in our time of need. Amen”

  • Reply
    Sheila Berahoo.comgeron
    December 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

    What a wonderful story! God holds His own. Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 24, 2010 at 9:40 am

    What a wonderful story. The lure of being with family for the Holidays is so strong. It is the one time of year that we always make it home.
    Sheryl

  • Reply
    My Carolina Kitchen
    December 24, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Tipper, What a lovely Christmas story. I wish you a very merry Christmas filled with wonderful food, family and friends. Happy holidays to you and your family.
    Be good ’cause Santa Claus comes tonight.
    Sam

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