I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of ice hitting my window. I scooped up my cat, Miss Muffin, in my arms and headed down to the kitchen. Ice covered the hydro lines like a solid clear tube. Icicles hung from everything like a fringe.
Miss Muffin’s eyes were wide too, as she gazed at the damage from the comforting hold of my arms. I heard the loud bang of a transformer and then all was black. I could only see the outline of the two highrises across the street. All was silent, not the sound of a fridge or a furnace running, just complete silence. I went upstairs to the family room, lit a fire and lay down on the couch with Miss Muffin on my chest.
Arising early we prepared to open the store and operate under stressed conditions. Customers appreciated our candlelit, cheerful service. By mid day friends and family with no power abandoned their cold homes for the warmth of our fireplace.
We closed the store at 5 p.m. because there was no more light. My husband Frank and I headed upstairs where our friends and family filled our home with laughter and companionship. I lit candles while Frank prepared the barbecue. Rosemary, Kathleen and I headed to the kitchen to prepare a spontaneous feast. It was a lovely relaxed evening of warm conversation, good food and friendship.
The next morning power was slowly being restored and our overnight guests bid us adieu. Still without power, we were helped along by neighbours who shared their hydro with us to recharge cellphones.
The building became colder by the hour and when darkness fell we again began carrying wood upstairs. It took us over an hour to rebuild the fire, fill lanterns, replace candles and prepare the barbecue. I developed a greater respect for my pioneer forefathers and was thankful we had running water. I was amazed at the progress Toronto Hydro made restoring so many people’s power within 36 hours and remained hopeful ours too would soon be restored.
Eighty hours later I awoke on Christmas morning exhausted from waking every two hours to rebuild the fire. I was tired of carrying wood up the stairs and lighting lanterns. I was tired of being cold. I was thankful things weren’t worse but I had no Christmas spirit.
I had one gift to open: a present from my sister, a simple silver bell with a note that read, “The true spirit of Christmas lies within your heart” and “The bell will ring for you if you truly believe!”
I held the silver ball tightly and tried to believe I would have power that day.
On Boxing Day I again held the silver ball when it struck me to go look for a hydro truck. While driving through the neighbourhood I spotted one heading north on Beech Avenue. I caught him at the red light. I hopped out of my car and he noticed me in his side mirror and stepped out of his truck – sporting a full white beard and a red Santa cap! I smiled and said, “Wow, you look just like the real one!”
I explained my plight and asked if our address was on his list. He suggested I follow him to Wayland Avenue which was in total chaos – five trucks, a tree in the middle of the road, orange cones and yellow caution tape all over and workers with chainsaws. Cautious to stay out of their way, I looked for my Hydro Santa but he was nowhere to be found. A worker jumped into Hydro Santa’s truck and yelled “Hey lady, move your car!”
I asked “Where’s the guy who drove this truck here? The guy with the beard?”
He replied, “This is my truck, no one but me drives it, now please move your car!”
Dejected, I walked back to my car as a supervisor pulled up, to whom I quickly pleaded my case. He asked my address and said he’d check to see if I was on their list, and if so, they’d be there soon. On my way home I stopped at Tim Hortons for some hot comfort and thought about the guy with the white beard.
When I pulled onto my street, Toronto Hydro was driving away, my power fully restored! As I waved thanks to the driver it was none other than the bearded man with the Santa cap. The silver bell my sister gave me now proudly sits on our Christmas tree, just below and to the left of the angel at the top, and it will forever remind me of the power of belief!
Debbie Archer is a Kingston Road resident, who runs Scarborough Music with her husband Frank Natale