Friday, December 28, 2007

The more things change...

When I first moved to the South, it was hard to believe it was the "holiday season." Oh sure, the decorations were up, the lights twinkled, the trees smelled as fresh (if you have a live one, that is. The ones people haul out of the garages or attics might not smell so very fresh. Do they sell tree scented spray that you can perfume your petroleum-based tree product with? I wonder) as they did anyplace ELSE, but the cold and snow/ice that I for so long equated with Christmas simply did NOT make an appearance. It was disconcerting for a while, because Christmas and the New Year are SUPPOSED to be ushered in with frigid temps and gobs of snow, right?

Well, after just a few years here below the Mason-Dixon line, I can safely say that I’m over the need for icy meteorological phenomena to accompany any "ho-ho-ho-ing" I might do. Moving south was the last nail in the coffin of THAT particular expectation.

(Cue windchimes and wavy screen; we are going to the flashback!)

The first many years of my life I lived in upstate New York, right in the Binghamtom area. There were hills upon hills, and snow on snow on SNOW from October through May. We kids knew from snow; we knew which snow was good for sledding and which was good for making snowmen and having snowball fights. We knew how to ice down the toboggan run, zip between trees on the sledding hill, dig caves in the snow hills thrown up by the plows, and how to quickly de-ice those metal clasps on the galoshes our Moms made us wear. We were hardy little souls, with frosty soggy mittens, red noses, chapped cheeks, and perma-frozen toes. It was a grand time.

When I was 11 we moved to Virginia, where there just wasn’t as much snow. Go figure. Not so much snow, and plenty of sun. Also? No hills. Why, a person could see around them without a mountain getting in the way! It was big sky country, for sure. Every one in a while that big sky would drop a load of snow on the unsuspecting populace, at which point all activity stopped. Once we were snowed into our house for three days before the plow trucks made it up onto our court.We had ICE on many occasions, and enough snow to keep hoping that we’d always have a white Christmas, but it never came often enough that we would expect it.

I lived in Florida for two holiday seasons. No snow. Imagine that. It was nigh onto surreal to see Santas in shorts. I felt vaguely uncomfortable, like I was sinning. Against what I didn’t know. The Christmas spirit? How it ‘ought’ to be? Maybe.

Fifteen years in Connecticut very nearly got me back in the white Christmas groove, but even then there were the occasional green holidays. One year I sipped cocktails on the back deck on Christmas afternoon. No parka. No snow shovel. Just sun and short sleeves and the smell of damp earth. Oh, we knew from COLD, and for sure there were many White Christmases, and it was the snow that finally starting making us think seriously about moving away from the great white northeast, but somehow I’d lost the expectation of a perfect glinting blanket of white on the ground on the most holy morning of the year.

That lack of expectation was the beginning of the end. I started to WANT a warm Christmas. I started to LONG for a holiday that involved an invigorating walk, and that didn’t involve shivering through a cold dark afternoon. I began to think about the South. I began to believe that those people featured in the Southern Living magazine really had it made with their magnolia-leaf wreaths and their tangerine-laden garlands and their sweater-clad outdoor selves serving up hot cider to their pretty friends while their perfect children romped about in the freedom allowed by the absence of snowsuits. There was something alluring, beguiling, attractive about taking a hike through a crisp brown forest on Christmas afternoon, about the absence of snow shovels, about open front doors and hanging bird seed and peanut butter-smeared pine cones out on the bare pecan trees for the hungry birds on Christmas morning.

“I can DO those things,” I thought. "I can do them if I live where those people do."

And, now that I live in the south, I will do them. Someday. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in ’08. Maybe I will.

Knowing I CAN makes all the difference. Whether or not Christmas is white matters very little anymore. Those long-held notions of “ought to” are melting away in the southern heat, revealing the structure of what always lay beneath.

Snow isn’t what makes the season bright, after all.


Here's hoping that your weekend is merry, that your New Year celebrations are shiny and safe, and that '08 brings you more good things than you could have dreamed possible. Take it from me; a lot can happen in a year's time...

No comments: