'Twas the Night Before Blizzard: Storm brings couple, wee babe and one wise('-ish') daughter to Swift inn

Columnist Tammy Swift borrows from Clement Clarke Moore's Christmas poem to tell the story of the modest, young couple with wee babe seeking shelter at her parents' B&B during last week's storm.

Tammy Swift online column sig revised 3-16-21.jpg
Tammy Swift, Forum columnist.

It may be one of the oldest tricks in the book to use the beloved poem, "A Visit from St. Nick," as a template to tell another story entirely.

But what the heck. I'm so old that I could have taken Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) to prom. So bear with me as I again use this device to share the tale of the unexpected guests who came upon a midnight not-so-clear to the Swift family's inn during the Christmas holiday.

Let's just say the whole thing had a modern-day nativity-scene feel, complete with a modest, young couple and their wee babe seeking shelter late at night, a furry dog who could have doubled as a sheep and — if not three wise men — at least one wiseacre daughter of the inn proprietors.

So here it is. "A Visit to St. Marge (aka Mom)," with apologies to Clarke Moore.

‘Twas three nights before Christmas at Mom's B&B


No creature was stirring, but one daughter (that's me!),

My parents they sat by the TV with care

In hopes that “Gunsmoke” would soon hit the air

I was nestled all snug in my bed

While visions of yoga pants danced in my head

And mom in her nightgown and dad in his robe

Listened to the wind as it started to blow

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter


They sprang from their loungers to see what was the matter

Mom moved so fast that she stubbed her big toe

Still she opened the curtains and peered through the snow

And what to their wondering eyes should appear?

A Yaris and a Taurus with a dent in the rear,

And then from a distance a small truck rolled in

Containing two people and a Japanese Chin .

We knew in a moment this wasn’t St. Nick


But travelers who found the road was too slick,

Although the forecasters had warned of the storm

These stubborn drivers refused to conform,

As if on some crazed, ill-conceived mission

They proceeded to drive in white-out conditions

They must have thought they were somehow exempt

Till they hit ice, winds and subzero temps,

With legs turned to jelly and arms to spaghetti,


They realized this weather would scare off a Yeti,

So they Googled and Yelped right from their cars

Till they found Mom’s inn with its 5 stars,

They trudged to our door, all bundled in coats

Arms filled with dog bowls and knapsacks and totes

And then who should come in right from the cold?

But a mom and her wee babe — just seven months old!

We couldn’t believe they’d brought such a small tot


Still in her snowsuit, so sweaty and hot

Once unzipped, she gurgled and grinned

Charming us all — right down to the Chin.

We put them in guest rooms, we put them on sofas

We learned that our guests weren’t from North Dakota

They had crossed several states to spend Christmas with loved ones,

Then met a “bomb cyclone” like Attila the Hun’s son

Thanks to my parents, who opened their doors,


They now slept so soundly the house shook with snores.

All were now warm, safe and quite nifty

From ice, snow and wind chills below minus-50.

Last week's storms brought high winds, icy conditions and near-zero visibility to the western North Dakota community where the Swift family operates a bed-and-breakfast. A week earlier, this area had also received historic snowfall.
Contributed / James Farrell

The next day, they got up to eat caramel rolls

Some hit the road, even though it was closed,

The couple with baby stayed one extra day

To make sure the storm had moved out of the way,

Then packed up their daughter, their stuff and their car,

And announced they'd get home if they drove fast and far,

And we heard them proclaim, as they backed down the drive,

“Thanks to your family, we’re all still alive!”


Tammy Swift portrait for Brightspot module

Hi, I'm Tammy Swift, a long-time columnist for The Forum. Over the years, I've written about everything from growing up on the farm and life as a single woman to marriage, divorce and the "joys" of menopause. I'm also slightly obsessed with my dog. Check out my latest columns below. Reach me at

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Tammy has been a storyteller most of her life. Before she learned the alphabet, she told stories by drawing pictures and then dictated the narrative to her ever-patient mother. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter, a Bismarck Tribune feature writer/columnist, a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor, a writer in NDSU's Publications Services, a marketing/social media specialist, an education associate in public broadcasting and a communications specialist at a nonprofit.
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