Catching the holiday spirit, weather or not
Greg and I were talking about ice storms the other day. We both grew up on the East Coast and remember them well, but in different ways.
For Greg, ice storms gave him a chance to practice “doughnuts” in an ice-covered parking lot. You know, gunning the car from a complete stop on icy pavement, throwing it into an uncontrolled 360-degree spin.
That’s not my idea of fun.
What I remember about the ice storms of long ago was the spectral light thrown by the street lamps by our house, haloing the ice-coated power lines.
I remember, tucked into bed at night, hearing car tires spinning on the street and wondering if it was my father trying to get up Old Army Road hill.
I remember how often the power would go out and my mother would have to light the rickety gas stove in the basement to cook tomato soup for dinner.
Ice storms often meant no school the next day, and that was good. If the temperature dropped enough overnight the icy rain would turn to snow and we would have a wonderful day of sledding and snowball fights and building snow forts in the front yard.
Greg and I also shared memories of Christmas pageants that marked our holidays when we were kids. In my neighborhood, we had a bonfire and Santa would come in on a sleigh and give away presents and we’d drink hot cider around the fire.
Every year my mother would dig into the wooden chest in the dining room and pull out our elf costumes that she’d refurbish for the big event. We wore green tights and green and brown felt tunics and little peaked caps with bells. The neighbor kids dressed up too.
The fire was built on vacant land across the street from our back lot on the same Old Army Road. It was named for General Washington , who marched his troops along it to the Battle of White Plains during the Revolutionary War.
Our bonfire spot was a favorite haunt of us kids. There was a big outcrop of steel-gray granite behind which we could hide and have a bird’s-eye view of the street below and any enemies who might come our way.
That rock made a natural amphitheater protected from the wind where the bonfire was lit.
Holidays also meant skating on the local ponds and brooks. There was a big skating party every weekend on the Bronx River where a fire kept us warm and there was hot chocolate and a changing hut. That was great fun. Closer to home, we skated on a small pond where we used to feed the ducks in the summertime. The boys played hockey and chased the girls who pretended to be figure skaters.
One year Aunt Peggy gave my sister Stacie and me figure skating outfits, complete with flesh-colored tights, tiny velveteen skirts and matching tops. Boy, were we tricked out.
Since I moved to the West, holiday ambiance is a chancy thing. Sometimes the snow comes early and we’re treated to a white Thanksgiving, only to be cheated out of an equally white Christmas when the snow stops in early December.
There’s always that niggling feeling, no matter how much snow we have before Thanksgiving, that we shouldn’t get our hopes up for Christmas. But I’m hoping nevertheless.
And now the holidays have taken on a deeper meaning since three children have come into my life. The wonder of fresh snow and the promise of Santa and Christmas came home to me earlier this week.
Five-year-old A.J. and I were having breakfast Monday morning, watching the snow fall in gentle showers from the heavily laden trees. A. J. remarked about the snow – falling in the air, covering the trees on the lawn. The cedar tree in the front yard looked like a Christmas tree, he said. And that led to talk, all the way to school that morning, about Santa Claus and how you have to be asleep when he comes or he won’t bring you any presents.
That’s what puts me in the holiday spirit, those little gems of wisdom from A.J. who sees with fresh eyes the beauty of a snowy morning and the promise of holiday cheer.
Donna Daniels is a Post Independent staff writer.
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