A Christmas to remember

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, December 20, 2014

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It was the perfect storm.

A wife in the first trimester of her first pregnancy, nauseated by every taste and smell her senses could deliver.

A 500-mile car trip to celebrate Christmas with her family.

An ice storm that kicked off the longest freeze Texas had ever experienced.

And just for grins, toss in a new puppy.

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

It was 1983. At D/FW Airport, freezing weather arrived Sunday, Dec. 18 at 7 a.m. and stayed until 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30.

The 295-hour freeze – 12 days, seven hours – was even longer in the outlying areas, particularly to the west.

We were way outlying, living in Andrews, in one of those counties-and-a-half that border New Mexico, just above where Texas takes off to El Paso.

Our Christmas destination, after celebrating with my family just up the road in Lamesa, was Clarksville. That’s east of Paris and, like them ol’ cotton fields back home, just about an hour from Texarkana.

It’s lots of hours from Andrews.

The previous fall, we’d lost our dog to a car on the Lubbock Highway while visiting my folks. I found her, picked her up and buried her in their backyard, and afterward sobbed like a baby. It was just so sad.

My sister, one of the world’s great dog-lovers, silently vowed at that time to get me a dog for Christmas.

Who knew what else Christmas 1983 would hold?

My wife became with child sometime in November, and proceded to redefine nausea.

Most days, she had tossed more cookies before breakfast than Keebler has elves. She was six months along before she got back to her original, minimal, pre-pregnant weight.

(Note: She did this three times.)

But she continued working, teaching bilingual first graders and calling her husband when she got a craving for a burrito from Mimi’s Taco Stand out on the Odessa Highway.

This was the tenuous situation as we slid up to Lamesa in the old T-bird, exchanged presents and spent a night, receiving as part of our Christmas bounty a small, adorable, Brittany Spaniel whom we named Sally.

The next day we loaded up and hit the road, avoiding the interstate with its big trucks and sticking to Texas 180 through Snyder, Albany and Breckenridge to Weatherford. Then it was Fort Worth, Denton, McKinney, up through Bonham, Honey Grove and Paris.

Drive the same distance in the other direction and you’re nearly to Tuscon.

I don’t remember the icy roads being all that treacherous. That’s likely because far greater danger lay in the two ticking time bombs in the car with me – my wife and the young dog.

Let’s just say Sally was prone, at times, to emit odors my bride found intolerable.

To her credit, my spouse did not, at any time, actually toss the dog out of our moving car.

To my credit, I learned how to drive with one arm and restrain a dogicidal pregnant woman with the other.

There were numerous pit stops, but on one in particular I can still see the pup slipping and sprawling on the icy courthouse lawn in Albany as she sought a place to do her business.

When we got to my in-laws’ house it was easier to segregate wife and dog. My wife spent most of her time nibbling on turkey, which she learned she could tolerate.

Sally moved into the sewing room. I spent a fair amount of time crunching around on the ice, waiting for her to accomplish a mission, or, if we didn’t make it outside quick enough, cleaning up puppy messes.

When we finally got home, I created a warm, safe place for the pup out back, safely away from our mother-to-be (who loved Sally dearly once her expectation had ended).

The best present of all, of course, was that little one and two subsequent siblings who – although utterly sickening to Mom while in the womb – arrived healthy and have hardly ever made her sick since.

The first one, incubated during the Great Freeze of ’83, appreciates her mother this Christmas in a new way. She’s expecting our first grandchild in April.

She’s having a gentler gestation. Her husband and I are hoping for a milder winter from Mother Nature.

And, we all agree, no puppies until Junior gets settled in.

Merry Christmas to all!

Bob Buckel is editorial director of the Messenger.

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