There was a foretaste, as we drove up I-75 through the mountains of Tennessee, branches so laden with snow and ice and beauty that I had to wake up my snoozing husband to show him the Narnia all around us. Jubilation-if even for a dozen miles. Who would have known I'd be treated, days later, to more of what makes Christmas merry and bright? For years I've watched as the skies saved the best stuff for when I'm stuck in the south...my parents calling to report the frozen creek behind the house, snuggled up in recliners while the weatherman commands they stay put and I contemplate the yellowed grass of Zone 7, dithering between green spray paint and white. In their Ohio kitchen I'd mope: Why doesn't it snow on Christmas anymore? My father's knee-jerk reaction to any weather inquiry is, of course, the radar, a TV channel airing a computer-generated map, over which various colorful blobs hover in time to narration by a she-robot with a degree in aeronautics. Despite more than sufficient exposure, I'd never grown savvy to the android's brand of forecasting, however, this holiday some wisdom was imparted: revelation in a large white mass moving east across the plains. When I heard her croak out the words wintry mix, I hopped off my kitchen stool and danced an actual jig. At long last.
I did endure my share of teasing-for my enthusiasm, for actually saying out loud, "I hope on Christmas Eve, we get the mother of all blizzards, and people make it home from church just in time, thankful to be alive, and then stay inside for days with drifts up to their roof." I realize this is indulgent--invoking a Stage Three Snow Emergency just so I can celebrate the birth of Christ in a Norman Rockwell snowglobe, but still. It's not just about loveliness-the fitting stillness during what should be a time of contemplation and rest, though I do resent the ads they stuff in the paper Christmas Day, the sales flyers instigating yet another trip to the mall, each mega store one-upping the other. Don't we get a break? Can't the machine wait one more day before cranking up again? Shouldn't December 26th be reserved for playing with your new toys, polishing off a couple dozen cookies, and wassailing? A neck-high dusting of white would take care of that, I think.
a row of bed-headed cousins assess the possibility of sledding at 8 am
In the days leading up to the 25th we enjoyed a generous helping of snow and ice-enough for sledding and snow angels, enough to make us snug and cozy, glad for our lives and the too-many-to-count things we've got to be thankful for. On Christmas, however, as a precursor to the wintry mix, we experienced, of all things, a thaw. I avoided windows. Later in the afternoon, I forced myself to get out, pulling boots on over pajama bottoms and a vest on top of the cardigan I'd slept in. Heading west through town, it occurred to me that mostly, my longing for a white Christmas is rooted in the desire for things to stay the same-for the snow to cover what's changed, for the streets of my childhood to reappear with the weather. When the world's concealed in white, it is, for a little while, the Christmas everyone remembers. Walking back towards home it was suddenly colder, biting-and the blast of warm air I felt upon entering the house was another evidence of blessing-the comfort of home, of familiar-the juxtaposition of hearth and wilderness. Maybe snow reminds me of this-to pause and remember, to be in awe.