A White Christmas
an exclusive by Noella Designs
It was two days before Christmas, 1952 and I was ten years old. As one of a dozen angels in the Brooklyn Elementary School Christmas play, I was dressed in a flowing white angel robe topped with a foil halo my Mom had made for me.
I slowly walked toward a lighted Christmas tree on stage with my head bowed and my hands held as if in prayer. This was an amazing acting job on my part. You see, I may have looked like an angel but my usual behavior was anything but angelic.
One by one, my classmates and I assembled on stage and began the show. I couldn't wait for the finale; it was sure to amaze everyone in the auditorium that night. Even though it felt like it would never happen, we finally reached the last song. "Here it comes!" I thought to myself. When we sang the line "Fall on your knees...", we all fell to our knees in prayer.
It wasn't until that moment that I searched the audience for my Mom and Dad. "I forgot", I thought to myself, "Dad has to work". Then I saw her. Amidst the rest of the onlookers, her lovely face wore an expression of beaming pride and unconditional love. I remember that look to this day. My Mom sat there with her arm around my six year old sister and made me feel as though I had just given an award-winning performance. Good moms have a way of doing that without really trying.
* * *
The following day was Christmas Eve and there was no doubt this was going to be a white Christmas. Typical of Maryland winters, the flakes fell hard and fierce. In no time, the world was covered with a crystalline blanket of glistening white. The biting, cold winds whipped icy pellets into your eyes and ears. Occasionally, ice would creep past your coat collar and go down your back, chilling you to your core.
But, of course, this kind of weather is only a problem for adults. For kids, it's a wonderland of imagination. Mom bundled my little sister up snugly, made sure to do the same for me, reminded us to come in if we got cold and sent us on our way.
First, we needed to build some snow bunkers. The imminent snowball battle that ensued next was fast and furious with no true winner or loser but lots of strategy. Before you knew it, we were rolling on the ground making snow angels. We made more angels that day than any day before or since.
"Would anyone like to go sledding?" Mom hollered from the front doorway. My sister and I looked at each other in shock and dismay. You see, back in those days Mom wasn't exactly a snow lover. But she stood there with sled in hand awaiting our reply. "I know where there's a big hill!" I yelled back. "Follow me!"
When we arrived at the Maude Avenue hill, a few older kids were already zooming down the steep, snow-packed hill. Mom was apprehensive. She never cared for heights either, but she was as game as they come. "It looks kind of dangerous", she said. "What if a car comes down the road?" I looked at her with disbelief. "Mom...nobody drives in this kind of weather?" After some well-thought-out pleading, Mom agreed to let us go, but with conditions. "You can't go by yourself," she said as she laid on top of the sled. "Mom, what are you doing?" I asked. "One of you climb on my back," she said with youthful exuberance in her voice. "I'll take you down one at a time."
I was the first to climb on top. I laid down, held tightly to Mom and breathlessly waited for the descent to begin. In the blink of an eye, the two of us were flying like the wind. It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Then Mom peeked behind us and I felt her body jump beneath me. When I looked back, a vehicle was flailing at the top of the hill and headed straight for us. With one instinctive move, Mom rolled us and the sled over into a drainage ditch just as the car slid past us. Our sledding day was over.
* * *
Later that night, around nine o'clock, the snow was still falling. I poked my head out the kitchen door and bent down to feel the consistency of the snow that was once again covering the small wooden back porch. The snow was definitely too deep for sledding, but it was perfect for building a snowman. "Ever built a snowman at night?" I asked my little sister. Her eyes lit up as she shook her head from side to side. Mom once again made sure we were bundled warmly and handed us some extra buttons, an old broom, a tattered scarf, a pair of hole-riddled gloves and one of Dad's moth-eaten hats. Giggling with excitement, we dashed out into the moonlit wonderland.
After building the best snowman of our lives, it started to feel late. I knew Mom and Dad were waiting to set up the tree and get on with the Christmas Eve magic, so I reminded my sister that we had to be in bed and asleep before Santa would come. "Did I hear sleigh bells?" I suggested. She stared up at the starry sky and listened intently. Suddenly her chubby little face lit up. "I hear the bells," she said. "We've got to get inside and go to bed!" She grabbed my hand and started urging me to go inside the house.
Later that night, after my sister was in bed and asleep, Dad set up the Christmas tree and trimmed it with strings of sparkling lights. I wrapped some presents and helped to baste the turkey that was pre-roasting in the oven. Dad ate the cookies and milk while Mom placed strands of aluminum icicles on the tree branches.
Even though many memories have faded through the years, this particular time will remain in my heart as one of the best of my life. It was a simple time filled with love and laughter. What I wouldn't give for all of us to be together again in that small row house waiting for Christmas morning.