Warm Gulf Coast Christmas in 1979 made for a special reunion

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Unlike many of you, I was not lucky to have been born in a subtropical climate like the Texas Gulf Coast, so I moved here. For other reasons, but when I arrived, one of the main reasons that I stayed was the weather.

Not the sweltering summer temperatures, although I don’t really mind it all that much. But all the other times.

Welcome to the Gulf Coast, John. Let’s see how long you’ll stay, the weatherman might as well have said. As soon as I got here, he sent a couple of tropical storms and a hurricane threat my way.

What am I doing here, I asked myself a few times. There has to be another reporting job for a kid just out of college where the weather is normal.

Then I realized that a few weeks in August or September, when these Gulf storms sometimes have ganged up on us, are not really such a big deal. We haven’t even had one for a while. We got a free ride again this year. I hope it continues.
My mother decided in 1979 to come down here and see where her offspring set up his new digs. The holidays were approaching. I had a little time off, and we could spend Christmas together.

She fell in love with the weather right away. As soon as we left the airport and embarked on the long drive to Bay City, she couldn’t stop commenting about it.

It was December, right before Christmas, and the temperature was in the mid-70s.

I drove her down to the mouth of the Colorado River. We walked around the beach, where the River empties into the Gulf. It was something she had never seen. She was wearing summer clothes in the middle of December. Good thing she listened to me and packed something other than jackets and sweaters.

We sat by the apartment pool, ate out, and had a very nice Christmas. The weather, though, made it even better. It’s not like we hadn’t seen each other for years. But she was curious about this new world I found, where there is no subway (not even the restaurant kind back then), and you could drive everywhere with the windows rolled down in the middle of winter.

One time, we were driving in my 1968 Buick Skylark down the highway and passed a mowing crew. She rolled her window down and took some deep breaths.

“I love the smell of fresh cut grass,” she said. She couldn’t get enough of it. She wanted to bottle it up and take it back with her to the big city.

“Why don’t you move here?” I asked her. It would have been the perfect place for her to eventually retire. No more snow, and not much cold.

She never took me up on my offer. She had a job and friends to return to. She had a life that was completely different, and she liked it a lot.

But she also liked visiting in the winters to get away from the bitter cold. We spent many more holidays together before she died.

But the most memorable was that first one. It was a very special Christmas. We didn’t get expensive gifts, and we didn’t do much socializing. It was her and me. We enjoyed the time together, talking about the past, what we had been through while country hopping in Europe.

And, I really enjoyed watching this middle-aged woman feeling for the first time the warm winter breeze of the Gulf Coast. It was the first time she was in a warm climate in the winter.

It was, by all means, a great Christmas.

Then she left, and I went back to work. I called her a few days later just to talk.

“How do you like being back in the cold?” I asked her. She had been bragging at work about how it was summer in the winter here.

“Don’t tell them this,” I said, “but it’s near-freezing here today. We’re having a couple of days of winter.” Good thing it waited until you left.”