Walking down my street just after sunset these days is an exercise in enchantment. Small duplexes are decked out in an array of static and twinkly lights, in mixed colors and blocks of color and icy white, all against the darkness of towering pines. Wood smoke floats toward me from chimneys and I’m grateful for my cozy mittens.
The local populace is getting mildly antsy, since exactly zero flakes of snow have fallen so far this year. Temperatures are holding steady at 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Last year, we were buried under snow starting the day before Thanksgiving, and then hosted repeated ice storms, snow storms and deep freezes until March or April. The final remnants melted from my front yard in mid-May. In the midst of that, my house demanded re-roofing, as well as the complete demolition, re-insulation and replacement of sheetrock of an entire living room wall and the whole entry interior, complete with two new light fixtures. I was never so happy to be a renter.
Despite the fact that my folks and I, as Bahá’ís, only celebrate Christmas if we have friends or family who are celebrating, there is a lot to be said for bright decorations and a few treats to kick off the winter. And there is, indeed, something charming about a white Christmas. The classic movie of that title, for example, set in Vermont. However, my parents live in Vermont’s Green Mountains and driving to or from their house on a real white Christmas is a miserable and potentially terrifying experience. A white Christmas does provide the opportunity to bake something, although I have learned that if I don’t bake, then I don’t eat all of the baked things, and that’s wise. Or, snow could be an invitation to construct and decorate a gingerbread house, which I’ve done twice in my life and will likely do again, providing it with a backstory involving elfin inhabitants, but not this year.
The way Christmas is supposed to look to me? That would be drizzly or rainy and about 50 degrees, calling for a light jacket but not actually a complete stop of daily life as we know it. Even passing sunshine is acceptable. That would be the weather in or near Sacramento and points north in the early to mid-1980s.
Don’t get me wrong. Snow factored seriously into my childhood winters. It’s what we drove up the mountains to visit. We’d see it a week or so before Christmas, when Mom, Dad and I and Bingo (or the latter three of us) loaded up into the truck to locate and harvest a Christmas tree. We’d see it plenty of weekends throughout the winter when we drove up to Kirkwood for the best cross-country skiing—I still miss that whole part of the Sierras around Tahoe. However, where my grandmother lived in Sacramento, or where my grandfather lived in Corning, or where we lived in Mason or Yerington or Yreka, any snow was usually less than an inch and it was gone by afternoon.
With no snow on the horizon this weekend, I’ll go fetch myself a festive wreath and maybe an indoor swag of evergreens. The rest of my decorations are buried in a trunk in the room that is caught between bedroom and office status, so they may not make it out this year. I’ll catch up with a few friends between now and New Year’s Day. Barring snow and ice, I’ll spend a couple of days with my folks, enjoying cardamom bread and grapefruit, twinkly lights, and a movie or a good book or two.
At the moment, though, I’m crossing things off my to-do list while bouncing to a newly discovered playlist. (I recently joined Amazon Prime and have been exploring.) “Sunny on Christmas” is totally my soundtrack this year.