The Christmas Gift

christmas-santa-claus-fig-decorationI don’t complain about the drought because it’s easy to maintain. Nothing falls from the sky, which has to be raked, shoveled, chopped or pumped out of the basement. Let me explain.

Picture winter in Philadelphia. Are your brain cells feeling brisk and frosty? Well, that’s not cold enough. Now picture 20 below with a wind chill that could freeze the balls off a polar bear—and you’re close.

The snow on our street was knee deep, and a sadistic snowplow driver thought it would be fun to pile it on top of our one car, where an ice storm turned it into a gigantic iceberg—with an antennae. I knew I should have replaced those California license plates.

But here’s the real problem: with Christmas approaching, I had no gift for my husband and no way to get to the mall.

That’s when inspiration hit. For my gift, I’d dig the car out of the ice.

I attacked with an ice chopper, actually a long iron pipe with a flattened blade at the end. To use it, you raise it up, and bring it down hard so it slices off bits of ice and hopefully not your toes. Then repeat 400,000 times.

Eight hours and twelve blisters later, I finally uncovered the car and remarkably, it started right up. But though the engine’s RPMs varoomed off the odometer—the car didn’t move. The tires were stuck to the street like they’d licked a frozen lamppost. So, with a 50-foot extension attached to my blow dryer, I melted the ice around the tires.

But the car still wouldn’t move. The tires just spun, fantailing a spray of ugly brown slush. Then a neighbor said he had just the thing, and placed a pair of expanded metal runners, like snowshoes for cars, in front of the rear tires.

“You just need traction,” he said. “Now try it.”

When I stepped on the gas, the tires caught the metal sheets and at approximately the speed of light, shot them six houses down, decapitating an entire choir of plastic lawn angels.

While I contemplated my next step, the tires refroze.

Okay. Last resort. I called the Auto Club. They arrived in a vehicle roughly the size of a Panzer tank, and yanked my car off the ice. I started it up and crept forward, but immediately began to skid sideways. I turned into the skid, but the car hadn’t read the driver’s handbook and I slid onto a snowbank, my back wheels spinning two-feet off the ground. The tank finally nudged the car into our driveway; where the snowplow promptly piled a wall of ice.

I was so discouraged. All I wanted was a gift for my husband, and I gave him a gift all right—a wife with a backache, ice-chopper’s elbow, and a nose so cold I couldn’t feel it. I’m told it dripped continuously for hours.

And in an O’Henry twist, my husband said that all he really wanted for Christmas was a little nookie.

“You’re kidding,” I groaned. Men are so simple. It broke my heart to shatter his sugar-plum dreams, but after that day, all I wanted for Christmas was a nice, long backrub.