Snowbirds reflect on future,health

December 29, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

THE ALL-AMERICAN CANAL — ‘Twas the night before Christmas along this ditch bank.

Two snowbirds lay slumb'ring; no sound did they make.

Their stockings weren't hung by a chimney with care, since the snowbirds don't need one — there wasn't one there.

Their grown children and grandkids, tucked into warm beds, were far away from this place where the canal level ebbs.

When, all of a sudden, with a "Crack!" and a "Bang!" the sounds of loud fireworks overhead rang.

The snowbirds sprang up to see a light show, as Mexican revelers set the late night aglow.

Lorraine Nutter, 79, of Vancouver, Wash., hadn't planned on waking with her husband George to watch the midnight fireworks show across the international border from their campsite east of Calexico. But, she said, the couple didn't really have a choice in the matter.

"They'll wake you up!" she said of the fireworks.

Making the best of the situation, the Nutters gamely threw on some layers of clothing, popped out of their RV and sat in two matching folding chairs to watch the show.


"You had to look off at an angle but you could see ‘em all right," George Nutter said.

For the past 10 years, the Nutters have spent winters — including Christmas and New Year's eves — in the Imperial Valley. They like a site on Highway 98 east of Calexico.

Over the years the couple has developed a unique holiday tradition.

Many Valleyites gather with their families on Christmas Eve, enjoy tamales on Christmas morning and spend New Year's with "el crudo" and some menudo.

The Nutters, however, spent a quiet Christmas Eve exchanging gifts and enjoying some salami, smoked salmon and cheese.

"And, a little wine," Lorraine Nutter said in a hushed voice.

After watching a little TV, they went to bed.

Their children and grandchildren in San Clemente and Washington state are used to the couple being gone during the holiday season, even though they sometimes try to play the guilt card and wrest a visit from the oft-traveling couple.

"I guess they do. They tell us the kids want to see their grandparents. But, sometimes when we do go there is so much confusion, we just tell them to ‘Go and have your own,'" Lorraine Nutter said.

This year, the Nutters drove their Bigfoot RV to San Clemente on the way to the Valley and dropped off gifts for the grandkids.

On Christmas morning, while the youngsters were opening gifts hundreds of miles away, 81-year-old George Nutter was hurting, his wife reminded him.

"I was, wasn't I?" he mused.

Nutter, a former auto mechanic and construction worker, had a Christmas ear infection that interfered with his balance.

"I couldn't walk," he said.

Later in the day, as Lorraine Nutter started making their Christmas dinner, he started feeling better.

The menu for the evening might have had something to do with his sharp turnaround.

"The wife," as George Nutter would say, made ham, some yams, green beans, a chocolate pie and some salad.

The couple, who will have been married 60 years next July, ate together while listening to carols on the radio.

Since the two had so much food, they took a plate to a bachelor living in an RV across Highway 98 and visited with him for a while.

Normally, there would be more than five or six RVs parked on the same ditch bank as the Nutters.

Lorraine Nutter knows that two of their former winter neighbors have died, but she doesn't know what happened to the others.

"We thought it might be Sept. 11, but I don't know," she said about why the others failed to show this year.

George Nutter, wearing a New York Fire Department cap, said the five campers gathered across the highway on Friday afternoon were as many as he has seen this year.

However, some of the RVs just stay for the weekend, he added.

The couple expects to see a bit more traffic for New Year's.

As for their plans, the Nutters will celebrate New Year's Eve at their ditchbank campground, although how they'll celebrate is still up for debate.

"We haven't made up our minds yet," Lorraine Nutter said.

"Yes, you have. You went and bought buns," her husband replied.

Lorriane Nutter turned to look at her husband and said a New Year's weenie roast is a possibility.

Weenie roast or not, George Nutter is looking forward to his pie.

"The wife" is going to make a pecan pie, he said.

"I done shucked the pecans and she said, ‘I'll make ya a pie,'" he added.

While there will be pie at the weenie roast, party crashers shouldn't expect to get a flute of champagne to go along with a mustard dog.

It's not that the Nutters are teetotalers, they said. They just don't drink — apart from the Christmas Eve nip of wine.

"We don't mind if others do, though," George Nutter said.

After the year-end festivities, the Nutters will head back to their home in Vancouver sometime around the end of January. Before they leave they'll be watching weather reports to avoid any snow on the way home.

The Nutters have avoided snow for the past 20 years.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles