Hurricanes and White Christmases

Dear Reader:

My question for this week’s StoryWorth asked…“Describe your most memorable birthday.” 

My first instinct was to search mentally for a childhood or teenage birthday but nothing popped. (Except for receiving “Polly the doll” on my fifth birthday and even Polly would agree her story has already been told.)

I actually had to add 35 years to that special fifth birthday to get to my most auspicious 40th birthday…the one that never happened. Got your attention? 🙂

Oh…it was supposed to happen…big time! After all it was that dreaded benchmark 40th birthday that makes us all stop and wonder if we really need to act like an “adult” now…take inventory and keep going. But it never transpired…at least not in its original intent.

Unbeknownst to me the Dingles and friends had been cooking away for weeks before the big planned celebratory birthday dinner event for me… scheduled for September 24, 1989.

The years leading up to this birthday had been what Thomas Paine would have referred to as “the times that try men’s souls.” (and/or their wives as my husband and I had been separated for three years and the final divorce coincided with my “Big 40.”) It seemed like the “perfect storm” for a little self-pity and reflection of ‘what now?’

Little did I know or anyone else…that a divorce and 40th birthday…would soon be deemed as rather trivial in comparison to what was heading our way…it was a “perfect storm” but not the kind I had envisioned…it was one mean, huge, destructive hurricane by the name of Hugo.

It hit September 22, 1989 in the dark of night which was even more terrifying. The children’s father had come over to secure windows, doors, etc. and ended up staying that long terrible night as the winds sounded like some wild banshee screaming and tearing off pieces of the roofs and toppling trees …I think Tommy was the only one who slept that night.

September 23 dawned sunny with blue skies smiling down on all the horrible destruction we found around us. Pine trees heaped on top of each other, roofs partially or completely gone, no fresh water or electricity, toilets that didn’t flush, spoiled meats and foods from the fridge, hot, sticky, mosquitoes everywhere.

I wrote in my Hugo Journal…“I just discovered something today…There were no good old days before electricity.” 

Thank goodness mother had been away on a trip with her sister, Eva. They finally got in to check on us and took Mandy and Tommy back with them to Greenville in the upper part of the state. Walsh wanted to stay and help his dad with repairs.

Repairs took a long time with all the red tape involved with insurance and getting inspectors out to check the damage. Every day was a struggle.

The Dingles, Poppy and Dee Dee, were one of the first homes to get electricity back since they lived in town…so they had us over for supper one night…fried spam…it could have been a t-bone steak it was so good. A cool house and a hot meal…best birthday dinner I ever had ….before or since! 🙂

Three months later…Mother Nature tried to apologize (at least a little for the Hugo “inconvenience”) by giving us our first white Christmas and a special birthday present to Walsh!

It started snowing on Walsh’s birthday (23rd) and was still white on Christmas Day…almost 10 inches inland where Summerville is located. Absolutely beautiful. A true lowcountry miracle…the blessed gift of comfort and joy! Life goes on!

Christmas photo of the children that white Christmas. Happiness is a white Christmas in the South!

So until tomorrow…“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on and it will be better tomorrow.”

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh





About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to Hurricanes and White Christmases

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    Wow…that was quite a memorable 40th bday for so many reasons…and we remember the white Christmas bc our kids were upset that we they missed it…they were 6 yrs old…time flies….


    • Becky Dingle says:

      That’s right…Tommy was getting ready to turn seven on the 29th of December and he was disappointed that it didn’t snow again for him like Walsh on the 23rd. 🙂


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