White #Christmas Memories #holiday

This year much of the country is having a warm streak for the holiday rather than a white Christmas, like the ones in my memories.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, so I grew up thinking a white Christmas was normal. Pittsburgh isn’t exactly known for its temperate weather. As a kid I loved snow. I loved the way it looks when it falls from the sky, so fluffy and otherworldly. I loved playing in it, too, until my mom would come out and drag me inside to warm up. As much as I loved the snow, my parents hated it. Of course, I didn’t have to drive on the wet, slick streets or shovel the walk every time there was a new blanket of wet, white stuff, though I did help as I got older.

Little child playing in snow

This happy laughing child reminds me of my childhood.

My folks did everything they could to avoid a white Christmas, so we often piled into the car for the drive to Florida for the holidays. I learned to swim in a Miami pool one holiday.

Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida

One year we weren’t able to leave until Christmas day, for reasons I no longer recall. We got up very early and set off in the car. The fog was so thick, my dad could barely see. I remember riding with the window down, trying to keep the white line on the road in sight and telling him when he got too far away. Fortunately we drove out of the fog when we got on the turnpike and by evening we were somewhere in North Carolina. This was some years ago when almost nothing was open on Christmas. Needless to say, we were tired and very hungry and everything was closed. After finding a motel room, we drove around, looking for someplace to eat. Then we saw a lighted building, a White Castle that was open. That year Christmas dinner was hamburgers and french fries at the counter and we were very grateful for it!

White Castle logoWhen I was fourteen, we moved west to southern California and white Christmases became a thing of the past. California weather is funny. Late December is often warmer than November, and Christmas day can be warm and sunny. New Year’s Day is almost always sunny. (The Rose Parade founders in Pasadena knew what they were doing.) The closest snow may be a sprinkling of white on top of the local mountains, and depending on the weather, lots of people take advantage of the holidays to go skiing.

white chihuahua puppy

Mitzi looked much like this cute Chihuahua puppy

Another thing I love about Christmas is the piney scent of the Christmas tree. Mix in the smell of something sweet baking in the oven, and everything seems right with the world. Alas, the “real” tree disappeared when I was in college. My parents had acquired a Chihuahua puppy named Mitzi who had a fondness for pine needles. She would eat the needles that dropped off the deodar in the back yard and then throw up. That was the year my mom bought an artificial tree. She had no wish to spend the holidays cleaning up puppy puke!

Nowadays we’re bombarded with Christmas music wherever we go, to the point where I get tired of it. But then I remember playing carols on the piano (or organ) while my mother sang along in her lovely soprano. She’s gone now, as is my dad, but I remember those days with great fondness.

What is your favorite holiday memory?


Be Kind to Those Who Grieve at the Holidays

I shouldn’t need to say this, but be kind to those who Grieve during the holidays.

A year ago, my husband was in the hospital after being diagnosed with late stage, metastatic bladder cancer. I’m not kidding when I say I had no holiday spirit at all. It drove me crazy that all the employees at the cancer hospital kept saying, “Have a nice day.”

Really? Seriously?

I wanted to scream at them, “This is a freaking cancer hospital! How many people do you think are having a nice day?” The best alternative I could come up with was, “I hope your day doesn’t suck too badly.” But I politely kept my thoughts to myself. Stiff upper lip and all.

Bah Humbug

It’s always tough to lose someone you care about, but it seems especially difficult at the holidays when we’re surrounded by happy people looking forward to their gifts and parties, and with Christmas music playing nonstop in every store. The whole world seems happy except for those who are going through one of the toughest times in their lives. By New Year’s, I could have cheerfully strangled the people who were tone deaf enough to wish me a Happy New Year. There was nothing happy about it.

grief like ocean quote

This first year of widowhood has been challenging and sad, though not without moments of joy, like my cruise. I’ve grown a lot in the process of being on my own for the first time in many years. Would I say it has been a good year? No, I wouldn’t go that far, though I wouldn’t call it a bad year. Last year was the bad one. I’d call 2015 a transitional year.

If you know someone who has lost a loved one or is going through a tough time due to some other kind of circumstance, please choose your holiday wishes carefully, lest someone wish to strangle you. And do keep in mind that not everyone is having a happy holiday season.

Wishing everyone the best holiday possible, whatever that may mean to you.