The song says “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” It appears dreaming is what we’ll be doing this year, at least where I live. We had about 6-7 inches of the white stuff a couple weeks ago, for a couple hours.
But the snow thrower is pulled from its corner and test started. Just in case.
Snow has a singular purpose this time of year, other than giving kids a day off from school. (They don’t notice, on the snow day off, that they’ll have to make it up when the weather is nicer for being outdoors.)
Most of us have shingles on our roofs, the kind with coatings of colored stones, much of them mined within a few miles of my home. And Santa’s sleigh has steel runners. Snow prevents the Jolly Fat Guy’s skids from sparkling too much when he lands and departs, thus preventing police and fire equipment from adding its bright colors to the festive mix.
Even the air, especially at night, knows the joy of the season, making even vehicular tail and brake lights somehow brighter and crisper, and retail and restaurant neon more inviting.
Anyone who can see the wonder on a youngster’s face cannot avoid believing in Santa Claus. Besides, I have talked with the Jolly Fat Guy Dressed in Red, and I assure everyone he is quite real.
In the late 1960s, I was flying over Greenland in a U.S. Navy patrol plane, searching out thin places in the ice through which special ships could open paths. We would map the courses, and supply ships would carry food and other goods to places such as Thule and Sondrestrom – and the North Pole.
As we flew over the North Pole that spring, I detected a voice I’d never before heard on the radio. It was a jovial voice, seemingly filled with happiness, and we chatted some about what we were doing. The conversation was short. He had work to do getting ready for his annual run, and at a couple hundred miles an hour, my airplane would not be long in the area.
Months later, as the Christmas season closed in and I was home visiting, there was a phone call from a cousin. Her brother, from his most knowledgeable teenage seniority, had been attempting to convince Wendy Sue that Santa was not real. He had seen Mommy kissing Santa, he said. (Hey, it happens.)
Fortunately for Santa, my credibility was better than Stephen’s. Wendy was glad to hear proof of what she knew – that the real Santa would be stopping at her house Christmas Eve.
Wendy Sue grew up and got married. I’d like to think she still believes in Santa, and has passed the joy to her offspring.
I spent several Christmases away from home during my 20-year Navy career. One that particularly stands out was on the aircraft carrier USS America. Where I worked, there were large Plexiglas boards on which we wrote with colored “grease pencils” (in the days before white boards and dry-erase markers, and even longer before digital white boards with colored markers that don’t make marks at all).
Somewhere I think I have pictures of the “snow-laden windows,” and scenes of mountains and bright colored lights and sleds, deep inside the ship.
We were in a part of the world where there was no snow, and where history of the land was, and still is, punctuated by children whose happiness often is marked simply by being still alive.
Joy still escapes uniform celebration. In the land where once walked the man who gave his name to this season, telling people they should love and accept one another, his followers now slaughter and persecute succeeding generations – for no more excuse than differences in manner of worship.
But there is, maybe, hope. Across the planet there are people who still hew to the spirit some of us call Christmas. On the Night of Nights, there will be police and firefighters, doctors and nurses, and military members of all nations, languages and customs, following their beliefs in service of their fellow global inhabitants.
Let’s remind ourselves, especially now that economic travail seem to be affecting such a wide portion of this planet’s surface, that there are nations and peoples other than ours, all of whom, in the final analysis, wish only for their families’ safety and someone warm with whom to share the night.
And that the spirit of One God somehow become the same for all of us, regardless the style of our dress, depth of our wallets, dialect of our expression or height of our heavenly-aimed spires.
I hope that the blessings I feel fall also on your house, whatever season you celebrate.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Joyous Ramadan.
Even to those for whom it is not a holiday.
Photo by tonystl
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