Despite losing home to flood, Adrian, N.D., family keeps Christmas traditionsDespite losing their home in the 2009 flood, the Rode family of Adrian, N.D., has moved generations-old Christmas traditions with them to a new house.
By: Katie Ryan , The Jamestown Sun
ADRIAN, N.D. — For the better part of 60 years, members of the Rode family held Christmas on the same day, with the same people and in the same house.
Traditions tweaked with time, but every year included presents, turkey, ham and multiple hands of pinochle.
Forty years ago, Doris Rode and her late husband, Paul, would invite their children and the children’s boyfriends, girlfriends, families, etc., to their home. The group of 30 or so would play pinochle until 4 a.m. Christmas Day, then scatter to couches, floors or wherever for shuteye before Santa arrived the next morning.
As children aged and family grew, individual gift-giving became White Elephant exchanges, and families drove home instead of spending the night. Grandma and grandpa became great-grandma and great-grandpa, and the dining room expanded into multiple tables throughout the house.
And while most years resembled the year before, 2009 will likely look quite different than the Rode Christmas of 2008.
Doris Rode had lived in her home 59 years when floodwaters rose this spring. It was the home Paul’s grandparents’ built in 1906 and the home in which she reared her own eight children.
Water penetrated the basement, jeopardizing concrete and infecting walls with mold. The expense to fix the home wasn’t worth its value, so the family, some of them carpenters and construction workers, built anew. Doris evacuated her old home just before Easter and moved into her new home just after Thanksgiving.
But Doris wasn’t the only Rode with water trouble.
Doris is mother to eight, grandmother to 20 and great-grandmother to 10. Of them, her son Loren, grandson, Lucas, and great-grandson, Hudson, all live within half a mile.
The four generations reside along the same gravel road in Adrian, a town of about 50 residents located 30 miles southwest of Jamestown. There, at least seven families suffered flood damage to their homes.
Six inches of floodwater surged the Loren and Pat Rode home located along the river. Since then, the couple gutted and resurfaced floors and walls. They’ve also built a dike around their home to protect from future floods.
Lucas and his wife, Shawna, no longer live in their ranch-style home, located across the street. At its peak, water filled their basement and crept onto the main floor. In the eight months since the flood, the couple and their son, Hudson, have moved four times: once in with family, once in with friends, once in a camping trailer and now, they’ll spend Christmas living in a remodeled barn.
With their home deemed unlivable, Lucas and Shawna await a decision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding their home. FEMA may buy out the house, but the agency won’t make that decision until March.
The wait is a difficult one for the couple who planned to have more children. A two-bedroom barn with no bathtub isn’t conducive to family building, Lucas said.
“This is too small to try to extend our family out any further,” he said.
Decorating the residence meant new locations for traditional items like stockings. Instead of on the fireplace, stockings were hung on the windowsill with care. Decking the halls also meant out with the old. The flood washed away many of Shawna’s ornaments, including an artificial tree she received from her mother. The tree was old and austere, but it reminded her of family.
“It was just her (my mother’s) tree, and that was the one I put up,” Shawna said.
Now, Lucas said, the family’s tree is 2 feet tall.
No presents are under it, Shawna said, but not because the tree is too small. Instead, the family keeps the gifts in the closet because 2-year-old Hudson doesn’t like waiting to unwrap them.
The decorations are all donations from RAFT, an organization that advocates for disaster victims and specializes in providing emotional and spiritual guidance.
Despite the decoration devastation, Shawna said she’s looking forward to the holiday.
“I’m just glad that everyone is OK and that we’re all together,” she said,
For Doris, parts of her old house, such as siding and appliances, are now part of her new one. She decorated this year, but like her relatives, she lost ornaments as well. Christmas will be different this year, she said, but she’s experienced worse.
She lost a son, Mark, 42, in 2002. The father of two rolled his vehicle on Christmas Eve that year and died of the injuries he suffered.
No Christmas is as bad as that year, she said.
“In comparison to what we’ve been through, that was the hardest yet,” she said.
She’s situated in her new house now, she said, and looking forward to making new memories.
“I have to look at the old house as just a building,” she said.
The new normal
Despite her losses, Doris insisted upon hosting Christmas again this year. The year was a tough one, but the holiday doesn’t have to be.
Doris doesn’t have the space she used to, her kitchen table with four chairs isn’t roomy enough for the 40 or so guests she’s expecting. So family and friends will set up tables, chairs and place settings in Doris’ one-car garage.
“It’s time for new traditions in this house,” Lucas said.
The Jamestown Sun and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.
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