It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

20121210-014706.jpg Nothing says “Welcome baby Jesus” like a Christmas light display that be be seen in distant galaxies. The glow from this one keeps me awake at night, but I like it anyway.

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It snowed here in Denver yesterday. Not much — there’s probably no more than half an inch of it in my yard. But it’s lingered, and it feels good to me because it’s been unseasonably warm and dry here for months. It shouldn’t be 71 degrees and sunny in December, you know? It should be cold and gray, and we ought to be able to hear the crunch of our boots in the snow and watch our breath hover in the air in front of us for a second or two before it wafts toward Orion’s belt shining bright in the clear, black winter sky.

We need snow and cold at this time of year in the same way we need sunshine and warmth in the summer. Without them, how will Santa Claus land on our roofs on Christmas Eve, and how will boys make snowballs to toss at girls they think are cute? What’s the point of lighting a fire, wearing slippers, or hanging mistletoe in the doorway to the living room if it isn’t cold?

Yes, it snowed, and I’m happy it did.

Now it feels like Christmas.

Some people don’t like snow. It’s inconvenient.

I get that.

Some people don’t like Christmas, either. It’s an unwelcome break in the routine, an archaic celebration of things unseen and of a fading, foolish faith. A humbug.

I get that, too.

But I like snow and I like Christmas. I like the food. I like giving and receiving presents, and drinking a bit too much at parties. I like the strands of white lights that remind me of icicles, and the strings of blue, red, green, yellow and orange lights that, however kitsch, remind me that winter will end one day, and when it does, the world will be blanketed with color again. I like it that people are just a wee bit nicer to one another, and that sometimes, if you listen closely, you can catch them humming Silent Night or Jingle Bells under their breath. I like it that the powerful lyrics and minor chords of Ave Maria or Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel still bring tears to my eyes.

Maybe I like this time of year because I was born just three days before Christmas. My mother was recovering in the hospital on Christmas Day. To honor her, and I suppose me, the nurses on her ward gave her a split Eucalyptus log with a small hole drilled in it to hold a single red candle. It’s just a bit of unfinished wood, the stringy bark peeling away from it like a raggedy sweater. But my mother kept it, and she still puts it on display at the holidays all these decades later, as if to say, “Yes, I was as proud of my baby boy then as Mary was of hers, and I still am, God bless us all.”

Sometimes people ask me if I mind having a birthday so close to the holiday. I don’t, and as far as I can recall, I never have. I don’t mind sharing space with the baby Jesus. It doesn’t me feel small to be juxtaposed with greatness, anymore than it makes me feel insignificant to stand on a high mountain trail or on a sandy ocean beach and look out across the vastness of the Earth. I understand my place in the world, and I accept it. I am one of billions of people in a universe that may be filled with billions of planets, but like every snowflake I’m also unique. I occupy my own special space and time, and I am loved.

Besides, my parents always made it a point to celebrate both occasions equally, and sometimes they asked me if I wanted two small presents or one large one. That’s how I came by my first real camera, a high-quality 35mm single-lens reflex Chinon with a compact body and a set of lenses.

I used that camera personally and professionally for about 30 years. Took a lot of good photos with it, too, many of them at Christmas. The prints of those Christmases past are stored in photo albums, just as the digital Christmas photos I take now with my modern Nikon are stored in virtual albums on my computer. Technology changes, but our desire to freeze the best parts of the present so that we can remember the best parts of the past doesn’t.

It’s cold outside. Well below freezing, and snowing. But I’m wrapped in a blanket, warm, the lights turned down low. I hope it snows all night, and that I have to shovel the walk tomorrow. The exercise would do me good.

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P.S. — When I woke up this morning, it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit and I had to scrape the ice off my windshield. I hate winter, and can’t wait for spring.

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30 thoughts on “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

  1. I hope you’re out shoveling or at least up with your coffee readying yourself to shovel!
    We got dandruff on our roofs last night and the curled-up leaves on the ground out back look like scoops of ice cream.

  2. I love snow and ice too! And it really just can’t get cold enough for me either! I love Christmas and Birthdays and puppies and kitties too! I really love ice cream and chocolate, particularly in the same carton. Most of all, I love reading beautiful descriptive words that are so elegant and eloquent! I’m seriously glad your Mom had you.

  3. Hey Mike! Ah yes, the Orwellian DoubleThink: God bless us one and all, but damn this snow. Actually, I love snow and I’m quite fond of Christmas. And pie. Not sure how I got to pie, but yes please. A large slice. Indigo

  4. Yeah, living in Southern California after having grown up in New Jersey, it never truly feels like Christmas anymore. There’s something just inherently wrong with seeing Santa Claus wearing shorts.

    That said, I really don’t miss snow.

  5. I was about to write, “Who are you and what have you done with Michael?” until I got to the P.S. You just couldn’t do it, could you?

    We’re having a typical California Christmas: Sunny and warm with intermittent days of rain, just enough to turn the hills an emerald green that even the Irish would envy. There is no snow anywhere in sight, but if we are going to get some it will grace our hilltops in February or March. And none of that sleet shit either. Only photo-ops snow for us… because we’re special. ;)

  6. Happy Birthday, Michael! I love Christmas too – no snow here though. The Christmas house lights are beautiful. We enjoy driving around our neighborhood at night and enjoying the sights. I need to learn how to do some night photography!

  7. If you moved to the northeast you’d have everything you wanted. So much gray and cold and wet and tons of antagonist folks who I think you’d enjoy since about 1 out 5 of them has a keen wit.

    Hope you got your early birthday gift. I sent it early in hopes that you’d get it before the 21st in case the Mayans were right.

    • I didn’t get it! I’m so bummed, because now I never will. The world will end and I’ll never know what you got me. I hope it’s a maple syrup tree. That would be truly useful.

  8. Mommy and Daddy took me to the snow every year as a child. They loved to let me play in my cannas sneakers and thin cotton jacket until I was soaking wet, shivering cold, crying and blue. It made them laugh to see me so! Good times.

    • They sound like wonderful parents.

      Well, not exactly wonderful. But parents, for sure.

      Actually, maybe not even that. You poor thing. I’ll make you some hot cocoa next time you visit.

  9. I’m worried out here in the Pacific Northwest, just under the Canadian border. We haven’t had a hard freeze yet! I still have poor, wet, bedraggled flowers and rosebuds in my garden, and I’m still making salads from the soggy lettuce growing there. The green grass is covered with rotting leaves. Jerry and I walk every day in gloomy drizzle. It sure doesn’t look much like Christmas here.

  10. Isn’t it great? We just got our first “real” snow, which was really just slush, which is now ice. Even with the ice, I love this time of year, but it’s also the time of year when I chicken out and put my bike away.

  11. It has taken a while, but I’ve made peace with this season. As a kid it was very magical to me, as an adult I slid into a dark season of anxiety that was exacerbated by a time of year when I was expected to be happy, expected to be upbeat and engaged in Merriment, not preoccupied with people who had no such option, the lonely, the rejected, the forgotten. The magic is coming back around as I do what I can on my small patch of this earth. The first gift of Christmas is one of my favorites – – two words I repeat to myself almost daily: Fear not.

    • Yes, them. As an enormous fan of A Christmas Carol, I’m always mindful of the hollow-eyed children of ignorance and want who are hiding underneath the coat of the ghost of Christmas present. I never fully enjoy the season as a result…

  12. I was so moved by this… what a beautiful BEAUTIFUL post. I had all kinds of mushy things I was going to say, and then I saw the unexpected P.S. and once again (remember the Penis!) I am thrown in to laughter and don’t remember what I wanted to say! (Did I really write, “remember the penis” on the internet?)

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