No one predicts it. At least no one predicts the amount. Sure, every TV weather guy says snow is coming. Anybody with arthritis says as much. Something’s in the air, and, it being December, the something’s likely snow. Snow if we’re lucky. Ice if we’re not.
Here’s the beginning. A week before Christmas, and isn’t that nice? Don’t we all want a white Christmas, a picture postcard city for the holidays? Road crews keep up, no problem. We shop and shop and smile at sales clerks and sometimes say “excuse me” when we elbow into the last spot on a rush hour train. We all have the spirit, and isn’t that grand?
A skinny girl, spiked hair striped red and green for the holidays, adjusts her earplug and, in doing so, misses the curb. One of us reaches out, grabs her elbow to keep her from splatting to the cement. She yanks away because this is the city, and who do you think you are, anyway, touching her that way? But when she looks at the friendly face and sees the grin and the flakes on those eyelashes and feels the flakes on her own, she can’t help smiling back. So what if her “thanks” is more gruff than gracious? The girl isn’t much acquainted with the word. That’s all.
Christmas lands on a Friday, so almost all of us enjoy a three-day weekend, many of us stretching it into a week-plus vacation, tacking on the Monday through Thursday until New Year’s. Every day more snow, the kind that makes us want to stick out our tongues and taste. The kind that, instead of being a nuisance, throwing us into foul moods with the bother of it all, tickles laughs out of us.
So the first two weeks go. Snow but not too much. Workers at half staff. Holiday wassailing long into the early mornings. Sidewalks less crowded than usual. Headlines softer than usual: Family with five daughters adopts five orphan brothers, made-for-TV movie coming in spring at the latest. German Shepherd travels 589 miles to reunite with the family who lost him when they moved. Smart dog. Dumb family. But still, good news. Two sisters. The elder dials the number she’s never forgotten and is amazed to hear it ringing after forty-three years. At her shoulder, her husband hisses a reminder of the trespass that started the long silence. She ignores him and chokes out an answer when her sister says, “Hello.”
Then comes January. If given a choice, we’d skip right over to March, even agree to two Februarys, because that miserable month is short and centered with chocolate, hearts, and love. But the calendar refuses to cooperate, and on comes January.
We dump Christmas trees curbside, officially marking the end of good cheer. Branches, recently festooned with strings of colored lights and glass ornaments, now droop against trunks. Once or twice that week, a peaked sun makes its way from behind ominous clouds, and when that happens, tinsel accidentally forgotten on an inner branch glistens. Any passer-by catching the sparkle pauses appreciatively, reminded of the holidays and less depressed by the thought of the long wait before the next one.