I got so excited I just had to post of Facebook: “It’s snowing!!!! It’s Christmas Eve and it’s snowing!!!!!” Yes, way too many exclamation marks.
I remember one year quite some time ago, I think probably 1965 or 1966. We were at the grandparents’ home, 161 Main Street in Hingham, Massachusetts, and it was Christmas Eve. Dinner was long over. Nannie and Pop had walked down the long driveway and across the street to the late service at St. John the Evangelist Church. I am not sure what the rest of us were doing but we were still up, still in the living room where a fire crackled in the hearth and a Christmas tree glowed in the corner by the picture window.
Was this the first Christmas when Ma had been sprung for a moment from McLean Hospital, a mental institution, under the care of her parents so that we could enjoy the holidays together? If it was, then I remember sitting at the dining-room table with its weight of white linen, silver, and candles, pink and white cyclamen filling the long bay window behind me, dark velvet curtains half-hiding the view into the foyer, the door to the kitchen swinging as platters were brought in.
Pop stood over a monstrous and juicily pink piece of beef, smiling dreamily, almost certainly a couple or three martinis to the wind, shaving that roast into hash. Was it Nannie who suggested my brother Jim take over carving? At any rate, what I remember was Pop’s helpless happiness at having this family together that had been so strained and broken by illness, death, and the dislocation of half of us children to boarding schools.
After dinner, after the blue flame on the plum pudding, the pulling of silly gifts from the sleigh centerpiece, after the clearing of the table and running of the dishwasher, Nannie and Pop left for church. I do not remember seeing them off, or whether they dressed particularly warmly, or indeed, anything about the weather that evening. In 1965, the moon would have been just past the first quarter; in 1966, it would have been almost full. What I remember is sitting quietly in the living room and Ma’s sudden explosion: “It’s snowing!”
Indeed, it was. We ran outside where flakes swirled through the pools of light that filled the flagstone walk and pillowed on the lawn and rhododendrons. It was wonderful. We went back in and every few minutes Ma went running out to wear that icy veil, to dance and twirl like a girl draped in lace from the dress-up box.
I am a New Englander, a lover of seasons, a person happy to suffer the inconveniences of winter to exult in the pleasures of snow. I’m dreaming every year of a white Christmas even without a reminder from Irving Berlin. That delicate frosting that came with nightfall on December 24 made the evening perfect and St. Nick welcome. A little more arrived today in anticipation of the New Year.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.