Because we have a LOT of extended family along the Wasatch Front, my husband, our kids and I had never experienced a Christmas without a crowd. Everywhere you looked there were people, people, people. Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Great-aunts and uncles. Grandparents. Great-grandparents, including my own grandpa, Skinny, who could still toss a mean pair of dice whenever we played the annual Christmas candy game, which involves adults stealing king-sized Hershey Symphony bars from young children and making them cry whenever you roll a seven.
(For a complete set of rules for this game, please visit me on Facebook where I will spell them out so you, too, can ruin a young child’s holiday!)
Anyway. When my husband and I packed up the U-Haul and moved our five kids to New York state in the summer of 1993, I wondered about Christmas. How would it feel to be by ourselves without all the familiar noise! Drama! My mother-in-law’s famous fruitcake! Which I love with all my heart, BTW!
Dull, I supposed. A little lonely, even. Altogether fruitcake-less and definitely NOT Christmas-y.
I turned out to be right about the "not Christmas-y" part. December rolled around without a snowflake in sight. The weather remained autumnal. I remember standing in the local IGA with the clerk who checked me out, watching dry leaves scuttle down Route 17.
"I hate it when there’s no snow for Christmas," she grumbled in a voice that sounded like one of Homer Simpson’s sisters-in-law. And I thought to myself how much I would miss the snow, because you know how it is. There’s always snow for Christmas in Salt Lake. Snow on buildings and tree branches and city sidewalks and hills for sledding. Everywhere you look there’s snow, snow, snow.
Especially when you’re not actually living there.
Christmas Eve morning dawned bright and clear. And warm. We went about our holiday business, and when evening came, we attended a midnight service with friends in a small stone church lit with candles and crowded with fir.
Later, when we stepped outside, we discovered the air had turned silvery and cold. A full moon glowed like a fat pearl on the inky horizon, and (cue movie music) it was snowing.
Snowing! On Christmas Eve!
All I could do was throw back my head and laugh. Thank you, Universe! Thank you!
Here’s the deal. Magic doesn’t always happen the way we want it to in this life. In fact, the more we want it, the more likely we are to drive it away. And in fairness it must be said that magic sometimes has a way of turning into something less than magical.
For example, you know how it didn’t start to snow until Christmas Eve the year we lived in New York? Well, it didn’t stop that year until May. By February all the village old-timers were grumbling, "This is worse than the winter of ’47." As for me, I never wanted to see snow again for as long as I lived.
I’ll never forget how beautiful that night seemed to me — mysterious and wordless as the moon itself.
Sometimes magic does happen. And when it does, you must wrap your arms around it, hold it close, and remember.
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