The last snowy Christmas I had was in 1981, back in Connecticut. The winter that year was particularly brutal, for some reason. I always wondered if it was Connecticut's farewell present to me, as that was the last winter I spent there before moving to California, and I remember well thinking I would never be warm again.
The clothes froze to the bedroom chair, the quilt froze to the bedroom wall I was vainly trying to insulate with it, and the only room with any heat was the kitchen. I felt like Scarlett O'Hara, but my line with fist upraised on an icicle-covered porch (and California dreamin') would have been, "I'll never freeze my ass off again!"
From there on in, before moving to Astoria, it was California palm trees for Christmas. It's true - be careful what you wish for. I will just say that palm trees don't go well with much besides tree rats and recluse spiders, and especially not with Christmas. Sunny 75 degree weather doesn't go with Christmas, either, so I used to light up the fireplace and set the swamp cooler on stun. But I digress.
Once I got to Astoria, the locals assured me it never snows in Astoria. But that it used to, long ago. With a heavy sigh, I figured I would never see a white Christmas again. And I reminisced mightily about childhood Christmases in Connecticut, on the shoreline, when Long Island Sound froze over with ice cakes, the Victorian houses on the islands in the sound looked like Christmas cards, and the snow was always at least a foot deep by Christmas.
Which then led me to think about the best and worst Christmas presents ever. The best was a TV, when I was only 3 (which was sometime during the first Pleistocene era, I believe) and my father lugged that damn thing uphill to the house from the driveway.
I still believed in Santa back then, so I was damn near delirious when I woke up and saw the beloved TV, which at that time, got a total of three stations that ran about 6 hours each per day. It was black & white, of course, and a screen and lots of tubes surrounded by some sort of pressed cardboard. That is the Christmas present I will always remember, and it still makes me smile to think about how I felt that Christmas morning.
The worst present wasn't the fault of the present, naturally, it was a case of faulty expectations. I was about 6 or so, and this one present under the tree just intrigued me. The shape was interesting, and it was wrapped in many, many layers of tissue paper. It only made a thunking rattle when shaken, and I could not for the life of me figure it out. I must have picked it up 20 times a day to shake it, or feel it, or try to puzzle it out. I was aghast to discover that it was a flashlight. To this day, I can almost feel my face falling again when I realized what it was.
Now, in my dotage, I appreciate the fact that the best Christmas gifts are not of the material kind. This year, it's having my friend Margot here for a month. And a wonderful blizzard on Dec. 20. I was down at Pier 11 doing the Saturday version of the Sunday Market, and looking out at the river with the snow swirling all around, and was tickled to my toenails.
The icing on the seasonal cake was to wake up Christmas morning and see falling snow out the back window that overlooks the city and river. Oh, I chuckled and giggled with glee, and felt like I was 5 years old again, when I would stand in my long-john pajamas (with the button-down butt flap, of course), staring out the window, waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.
Santa arrived this year, at last, and brought lots of snow and a sleigh-full of memories. I'm still smiling.
Click here to see Elleda's photography at the Astoria Photografpix web site