December 23 2010 12:15 PM EST
November 17 2015 5:28 AM EST
The first moment I hear the song "White Christmas" between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, it gets my hopes up. Now that we have the Oldies Christmas satellite channel in our vehicle, I hear it even more! Am I dreaming of a white Christmas? Possibly. I love the fantasy of a white Christmas: six inches of snow on the ground, Christmas lights on all the houses and storefronts reflected on the white-blanketed earth. If I stretch my thoughts to the countryside, I can see miles and miles of snow-covered rolling hills, evergreens laden with snow on their branches, and, yes, a one-horse open sleigh with a family going to grandmother's house for Christmas dinner, a painting right out of Currier and Ives! All that in southeastern Tennessee? No, not on your life. Here in the Southeast we get cheated on our Christmas snow! However, I learned a life lesson several years ago when my children were only 6 weeks old: Be thankful for whatever your situation might be.
I have kept a journal for several years. On January 1, I list hopes and prayers for the coming year. When it comes to the weather for Christmas Eve and the following day, I always include "28 degrees, snow on Christmas Eve, and plenty of snow on the ground on Christmas Day."
In 1969 (I was 3 years old, so I cannot remember much), it snowed several inches on Christmas. I remember my green Tonka pickup truck and farm set with those awesome black-and-white Holstein milking cows I received from Santa Claus. I wanted to take those cows out in the snow, and I also took them to my Mamaw's (a name for a grandmother here in the South) house that afternoon. We had a four-wheel drive Jeep, and we took it to see my grandparents, who lived some 15 miles away. I remember playing with those cows as we went. Old-timers such as my Nanny (my father's mother) said the Christmas snow of 1969 was the only real accumulation of snow she had ever seen on Christmas Day, and the meteorologist's archives say the same.
In 1976 on Christmas Day, my sister and I played television tennis on our new Atari (dinosaur predecessor of Xbox and the Wii ... you people over 40 remember) and watched a light dusting of snow fall in the woods behind our house. We had wonderful sliding glass doors, and we could see that precious, coveted, white precipitation fall. We kept hoping that it would accumulate so we could go out and play in the snow ... on Christmas Day, but it wasn't meant to be! It was at least at least 36 degrees, and by 3 p.m. the white dust had melted.
The third and final snow I remember on Christmas was in 1989. It was my first year out of college, and I was teaching Spanish in a north Georgia middle school. We awoke to about an inch of snow on the ground. Our front yard was blanketed in beautiful white snow, and huge snowflakes were showering down upon it. I had such high hopes! I looked forward to playing in the snow with my 8-year-old niece, who had never seen a white Christmas. My niece and her parents would be over for Christmas lunch, and I envisioned snowmen, snow angels, and snowball fights. After the outside activities, we would go in to drink some hot chocolate, eat our lunch, and open presents as we gazed out the living room window into the snow-coated front yard with those snowmen waving to the passersby on the road. But as usual, by the afternoon, the snow was all gone. There were no snow angels, no snowmen, nor snowball fights; however, Christmas lunch with my family was delicious.
Aside from the fact that I had spent the Christmas season as a decently functioning somnambulist, it had been a true blessing and joy. First of all, Ray and I had two healthy and beautiful children. Second, as a family, we four lit the joy candle on our church's Advent wreath. As Ray and Carter read the liturgy, Ammon and I lit the candle (I can still see Carter in his red and white argyle sweater, white shirt, and black corduroy pants, and Ammon in her red-and-green plaid dress with its red ribbon and red tights). That event had been special because many members of our mainstream, open and affirming Protestant denomination were so kind and congratulatory of our new family and the special holiday moment we had experienced. Third, I had done quite a bit of shopping online, but Carter, Ammon, and I had also spent a whole morning and afternoon buying gifts at our local mall. It was the first time we three had been out by ourselves. It was a challenge, but we did it! I was sleepy and had two 6-week-old babies, but the Christmas season was going nicely; however, I was waiting for my white Christmas.
Wednesday December 24, 2008
On January 1, 2008, I had asked for the 28 degrees and snow on Christmas Eve. It was now December 24, and it was 45 degrees, gray, humid, and cloudy; typical for a southeastern Tennessee Christmas Eve. Because it was Carter and Ammon's first Christmas, they needed, nay, deserved a white Christmas!
We were looking forward to the church's Christmas Eve candlelight service, but both of the babies had the sniffles, so we stayed home. Staying at home kept the babies from getting out in the elements, and it gave me time to clean more in the house, wrap my last presents, and prepare some food for the following day, when we would be hosting the Christmas lunch for our families.
For several years, Ray and I have jogged in the evenings on a track we keep mowed around our six-acre field at the base of a low-lying mountain behind our house. We always jogged together, but since the birth of the babies, we had to take turns while one of us attended to them. On this Christmas Eve, Ray jogged first. When he came in, I took my turn. When I jog alone, I plan the rest of the day's activities, pray, sing, or simply admire my surroundings. This evening wasn't any different, and as I jogged, I watched the gray clouds roll over the house and the field, and I talked to God about a white Christmas. I smiled and joked that he did not answer my prayer about a white Christmas yet again for another year. At the top of the field, I tried to envision our house, our red barn, the field, and the rolling hills in the distance all blanketed in six inches of snow. I heaved a huge sigh of disappointment.
I was finishing my last lap, and as I reached the summit of the field where I always go from a jog to a walk, a gust of cool wind surprised me and compelled me to fix myself on our house. It was the gloaming of a cold-steel-colored evening, but I could still see everything well. I gazed at our house. Our living room, which is in the back of the house, has two huge windows, and I could see the lights of our Christmas tree. The gloomy disappointment I had experienced a few moments before gave way to an illumination of joy and thanksgiving. Inside that house were my two blessed children and my husband who loves me. It may have been a gray Tennessee Christmas Eve outside, but everything, even the cloud-covered, humid evening, was perfect. I didn't need snow or one-horse open sleighs! I smiled, and tears unexpectedly ran down my cheek. I went down on my knees and thanked God for all my blessings and for a perfect gray Christmas.