Time for a Christmas Story
It’s strange how memories work. I’m closing in on being 20,000 days old, and most of what happened on any of those days is long since forgotten, yet still there’s some things I’ll always remember. I’m not talking about remembering major world events, like where you were when you first heard the news of 9/11. I’m not even talking about major events in my own life. I’m referring memories of days that had no special significance at all. Random days, almost certainly were much like the forgotten days that preceded and followed, but for whatever reason, my memory preserved.
There’s one particular day that I often think of this time of year when I was around five years old. It the late afternoon, sometime before Christmas, probably the middle of December. My family owned a wholesale/retail greenhouse and flower shop which at that time of year, was always filled with poinsettia plants and wreaths. The smell of evergreens filled the air. With the last light day, I noticed that it had begun to snow quite hard.
In half an hour, it would be time to go home. Home was only a block and a half away, but my father had already started the daily ritual of closing up shop. He went through each of six glass greenhouses to make sure everything was alright, looking at thermometers, making sure doors were bolted shut, and feeling the heating pipes to make sure they were hot. He then checked each of two huge boilers to make sure they were running properly. They looked, smelled and sounded to me like locomotives. Their incessant drone was actually comforting, signalling everything was a okay.
Last, he turned around the “Come in, We’re open!” sign to “Sorry, we’re closed” and slid the deadbolt on the front door closed. Then we turned out all the lights and exited through the rear door. We started walking home with me pulling my sled behind me that I had brought with me earlier that day. We reached the end of the drive and my father turned the opposite direction of home.
“Where are we going?”, I asked.
“I just thought you might like to see all the people’s Christmas lights.” my dad replied.
We walked in a serpentine pattern, through the eight or ten blocks that made up our town, looking at all the displays. They were modest by today’s standards. Most had no more that four strings of lights with around 20 bulbs per string, but they were the big, old style, incandescent bulbs. The ones that would easily get hot enough to burn a finger or start dry greenery on fire, so they had no problem melting even the heaviest snowfall, and what they lacked in number was more than made up for in total lumens.
The last house we walked past was the best of all. It had two blue spruce trees, about 25 feet tall, on either side of the front walk, completely covered with snow except for hundreds of holes melted through by blue lights. Those blue lights and their reflection against the snow on the tree and falling from the sky was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
At that point, it was time to go home. Supper would be on the table, and I would hear all about my older brother and sister's days at school while we ate. Later on, my mom would make us all some hot chocolate. (The real kind, made on the stove, with milk, sugar, and unsweetened Hershey’s cocoa.)
I wish I had a picture of me, pulling my sled, walking with my dad in that snowstorm, past those blue lit trees. At that point, for me, all was right with the world.