Christmas in Skagway? Right

Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Teen CityBy Bre Rowan

This year's Christmas was going to be great. Yeah, right.

Three days prior, I had the pleasure of catching the "Juneau crud" and, as if things couldn't get any more exciting, my dear grandparents were expecting us for Christmas at their humble abode in bustling, cosmopolitan Skagway (every teenager's dream vacation).

The invitation was definitely a shock to me. I am 17 and this Christmas was supposed to be my last "in the nest." I had been under the impression that my family would get a real Christmas tree for the first time ever and that our precious cat, T.J., would not be compelled to be home alone for the holidays.

My mood was further dampened as I remembered that I would be absent from my Juneau lifestyle and a certain "crush" for five entire days - and nights! Woe was me!

We were scheduled to leave on the Thursday before Christmas Eve. The winds were fierce and a storm was brewing. What an auspicious day for traveling, I thought, especially in a very small plane.

I won't lie. I am terribly afraid of flying. So are my parents. Our fright was heightened when we saw trees beating back and forth, their trunks about to snap. But our fearless bush pilot ushered us on to our death chariot of the sky and told us to tighten our seatbelts. If mine had been any tighter my face would've been blue due to lack of oxygen.

There we were. An old plane. Two strangers. Our petrified family. A crazed pilot - I was sure. Our plane was tossed in the wind like an empty paper bag. More than once we plunged as the wind slammed us. I was scared.

I prayed for forgiveness. I knew we wouldn't make it. Ten minutes later we landed safely in the barren community of Skagway. Only the anticipation of the next night kept me from jumping in the river that borders the runway and simply swimming home.

My grandfather drove us to their place. Before I could get my shoes off, I was enveloped by massive hugs and kisses from Grandma. Their house was a Santa's workshop; the tree sheltered a trillion presents. Maybe Christmas wouldn't be so bad.

A few long hours later, my mother and grandmother were playing a tipsy, giggling game of backgammon, daiquiris in hand; my father and grandfather were enjoying the ever-so-classic "Gold Fever" (where the gold rush depot of Skagway is portrayed as almost as inhospitable as when I had touched down that afternoon). Finally, sleep.

The morning of Christmas Eve day I was rudely awakened by the repeated clang of a banging hammer. Well, I guess I'm ready to get up. Another long day. Present opening was the agenda for 6 p.m. What would I do with myself for nine hours?

Throughout the day, the boredom was punctuated by my almost-ten brother counting down the hours and minutes. He bounced around the house like it was a pinball machine. He drove us nuts.

Suddenly, the zero-hour came and went like a tornado. In a rush, we were sitting among bows, ribbons, piles of wrapping paper - the remains of our Christmas hurricane. As my brother fooled around with his remote-control Hummer and a new Bionical for his vast collection, I played with my new toy, a mobile satellite radio which can pick up music from around the world. The adults admired our satisfaction.

OK. I'll admit it. Despite being homesick - and almost airsick - Christmas was swell. It brought my family together.

• Bre Rowan is a student at Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School.

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