It's almost Christmas.
I know this with the clear, cold logic that comes with over thirty years of personal experience. Same day. Every year. Without fail. We're only a few days away now and as the song goes, Soon it will be Christmas Day.
The problem is, it doesn't feel like Christmas.
This is not for lack of trying on the part of the department stores. The decorations are up, the sales are on, and the throngs of shoppers scurry about like lemmings with attention deficit disorder as carols ring out in seasonal fanfare.
They're selling Christmas trees on the corners, too. And wreaths, with big red bows. Cheerful red and white poinsettias have exploded out of the greenhouses into stores and corner shops everywhere.
It should feel like Christmas, but it doesn't.
There's something missing, and I know exactly what it is. It's something I left behind over ten years ago when I moved to down here. Something I thought I was escaping at the time.
What's missing is snow.
Don't get me wrong, I don't miss the winters. At least not the harsh northern winters of my youth. I don't pine for the endless months of bitter cold, the gray slush that unfailingly finds the open top of your boot, or the road salt that stains your leather gloves and slowly, deliberately, eats the metal of your car. I don't miss shoveling the driveway, sometimes twice a day, or trying to unlace boots with fingers so numb they hardly bend.
But the snow itself, now that's a different story. There's something almost magical about it. You can look up as it falls, and there's no end to it. It seems to come from heaven itself. Each flake on its own little mission, navigating the winds and sky to find its own perch on a tree limb, or the ever-whitening ground.
You see, I'm a very romantic person, and for me, snow is at the very heart and soul of romance. I can't tell you why...maybe it has to do with growing up in Central NY, and the recollection of those happy times, although even then it held a certain magic for me. As a child, Christmas embodied the feelings of warmth, love, and togetherness that would later become romance.
One of my most enduring Christmas memories is of a sullen sadness on December the 24th, as it was apparently going to be a green Christmas. Shortly before bedtime, having all but given up on any hope for snow, I sat in the big bay window in the front of the house and watched as tiny silvery dots appeared beneath the street lights outside. From dots, to confetti, to big fluffy flakes they grew, my excitement growing with them. I watched in wonder as they increased in size and fell in greater numbers. It was as if our home had been transported inside a snow globe which someone had given a shake.
I awoke Christmas morning to find the world covered in a shimmering blanket of pure white snow, three feet deep. I couldn't tell you a single gift that was given or received that year, but it's a Christmas I'll never forget.
As I got older, my idea of romance changed. No longer expressed in moments of joy and affection for my family who I so deeply loved, it became tied to individuals, and to the desire for someone special, just for me. At times it was a specific someone, other times a shadowy-faced idea of someone I longed to meet, but hadn't yet.
Sitting here now and looking back over loves and lovers come and gone, it's curious that so many of the most romantic times of my life have occurred in the snow.
I remember waiting for a bus in a small college town in NY; leaning against a streetlamp, arms wrapped tightly around Sue, her small body almost lost in the heavy wool coat. Her eyes sparkled brightly from under of the red scarf and hat, and we watched the snow fall from the dark sky in slow, graceful arcs. For those moments the whole world was contained in that snowy circle of light.
I remember a different town, and a different time; walking from the restaurant to the theater, ice crunching under shiny dress shoes and hands held tight to prevent a fall. We laughed as we tried to catch the last remnants of the unexpected snow on our tongues. The crystals were beautiful; perfectly formed and vivid against the black collar of my tuxedo.
And a particular New Year's Eve when we slipped out of the party unnoticed, to toast to each other privately in the moonlight. It was cold and we trembled as our glasses clinked, then we hugged each other tightly as tiny bubbles met tiny snowflakes above the surface of our champagne.
Things are different these days. Snow is not common this far south, though it does happen. My fellow North Carolinians do not react to it in quite the same way that I do. On hearing that there is a chance of snow, a kind of panic sets in. Their first thought is to rush to the store and clear the shelves of bread, milk and soup. Practical, I suppose, though I'd be hard pressed to recall the last time anyone starved to death in a snow storm in Raleigh.
For me it is more of an excited anticipation. My first thought is of going home, of relaxing together in front of a roaring fire, talking, snuggling...maybe more...as the downy flakes fall softly in the woods outside.
If I even consider the store, it's because we may not have enough wine.
See that job title? Check it out: "Spy". How cool is that? I know, you're probably wondering what it means to be a spy for an international organization like Intrepid Media, huh? Well I'd love to tell you, but I can't. It's all part of the spy game, baby.
ABOUT ROGER STRIFFLER
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
12.21.01 @ 12:07p
To whoever critiqued this: Thanks! I couldn't agree more and may try to fix it down the road.
12.21.01 @ 2:16p
It wasn't me, but by the way, we haven't exactly been getting snow in New York this winter, either.
12.26.01 @ 12:14a
lemmings with attention deficit disorder heh heh -that's funny.
On this Christmas day in Des Moines, there was just a smattering of snow mixed with the bite of frosty air. Speckles of frost etched the windows and the pine needles were tipped in white - hence, it really felt like Christmas. No bowed or ribboned box has quite the same effect.