Thomas Kincaid's "Christmas"

This is something I can now ascertain with metaphysical certitude. There will be no snow. It was fifty degrees when I closed up shop for Christmas vacation, walking out of the school in a flurry of high-fives after what seemed to be the longest semester of my life.

I drove home.  I looked for snow along the way.  It’s impossible to see the snow on the ground when it’s nearly fifty degrees, so I contemplated the options. I could wish for snow, which will probably get me nowhere because it seems my friends in Chicago, Wisconsin, and my beloved Great Lakes region have hijacked my share. I could wait for snow, which means I’d have to reschedule Christmas for sometime in February. I could hallucinate about snow, which would also be unproductive, because it is still nearly fifty degrees, and that will not bring the white stuff at all. It would only bring the men in white coats who will bring me to a very white room which will still not have snow.  I decided the only thing I could do was imagine the scenes of the “New England Christmas,” and sing some Bing as I stopped at the grocery store on the way home.

Since the Big Move Out of the City, I now shop at the local IGA–that means Independent Grocers Association. Each one has its real name. In this case it’s Brigido’s.  It’s a family market. In this first Christmas in my new town, it’s really nice to have a family market to go to when I forget the sweet potatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, and stuffing for Christmas Eve dinner. I’m trying to plan a traditional meal despite the lack of snow, because I don’t think I can get away with no-snow food like hotdogs and potato salad with the calendar turned to December.

In the old house, I used to shop in the Big City. I’d go from bodega to bodega–all the little ethnic stores–for spices, herbs, produce. I would dance in the aisle to the salsa and bachata blasted over the store’s loudspeakers.  They don’t blast salsa and bachata in the forest-town IGA at all. But they do have friendly strangers-soon-to-know-my-name who smile at me and sell me herbs and produce.  And once in a while I travel to say hello to the shopkeepers at the Indian, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish stores because they’ve always been good to me, and I restock the “obscure food wrapped in foreign languages” section of my pantry. I catch up on what’s been freshly baked, share a story, get a recipe. They usually remember me because I’ve been doing this for so long–and–let’s be honest–there aren’t many non-Chinese-non-Cambodians non-Indian-non-Spanish anglos shopping at those stores.  Let alone ones who can hold their own in Spanish, try hard in Chinese, greet you and thank you in Hindi and, well, smile politely in Cambodian.

I can drive to those place and take a tour of the world. But for this Christmas, I’ll stay nestled in my new corner of the forest waiting for snow.

I’ll look at the beautiful pink miniature roses on the bush in the front of my house that should have crumbled months ago. They are stunning. When I finish making the first batch of egg nog, filling the house with the smell of the Christmas cranberry bread, and going back to the IGA for the stuffing I forgot despite the fact I only had four items on my list, I will sit down in the forty-to-fifty degree weather, wish Santa a safe journey and say a prayer to thank God for all the blessings I have enjoyed this year.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a stressful year.  But one full of blessings–I fully appreciate our ability to move to this little stone ranch in the middle of the worst market in history.  I’m convinced this town was designed by Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kincaid as a mockup for their art. A town where the postmaster smiles and talks, and when she sees a box headed for San Francisco or Virginia, she doesn’t scowl like they do in the Big City, knowing she’ll have to wait for me to fill out forms.  She reports the weather en route to my box’s destination as if I were traveling there myself and says she can get it there faster with a few forms, which she fills out and sticks to the box for me.  A town where everyone in the school knows my name and they care about my little monster. Where I get to drive by a two farms and a giant golden Buddha, which, catching the sun just perfectly, brings a little snapshot of heaven to my morning and evening commute. Blessings.

My family has been blessed with health, jobs, safety. We’ve finally–after years of working alternate schedules, been able to sit down at the dinner table together and remember we are a family, not people working 24 hours a day to coordinate daycare and get somewhere in the universe.  Life seems to be settling down into a pattern of peace blanketed with happiness. Not happiness every day but the kind you get when your blessings and optimism are focal points in your life, and your gratitude for them is never far away.

I may wait patiently for the snow. But most probably, I will sit and enjoy the seed catalogues that are arriving, look out at the soft squishy earth outside, circle pictures of heirloom carrots, beans, corn, and tomatoes, and wait for the chirp of the birds to announce the first leaf buds of spring.

Meanwhile, I am blessed and grateful as this year comes to an end–for you who are reading this, for my family, friends, old friends, new friends, students, home, and the gifts that come to me each day through God and the magic of the universe. Whether this year has been kind or cruel to you, I wish you blessings and solace as well, and the happiest of new years.

[Edit: Not twenty minutes after I published this, I heard, “LOOK, MOM! SNOW!!” Sure enough, flurries are falling. Even if it doesn’t stick, it’s a nice reminder never to doubt the magic in the universe.]