When Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” he was in southern California, far from any snow or cold weather, and I think that’s fitting. It seems to me a cold, snowy Christmas is best enjoyed in the imagination. Of course growing up in Tennessee I can’t remember ever seeing a white Christmas. I can remember plenty of cold Christmases, and one Christmas we spent in Florida where I happily spent all day walking around in shorts and I distinctly remember dreaming about jellyfish coming in through the windows and rolling marbles all over the house which I wish Irving Berlin had written a song about because it would be so much better, but that’s another story.
I also remember plenty of rainy Christmases, which I don’t think anyone dreams of, unless they’re in the southern hemisphere where December is the middle of summer and maybe they’re hoping for a break in a drought.
Maybe I’m thinking of this because it seems like every free weekend I’ve had since mid-October–in other words six months after stores started putting out Christmas decorations–it’s been raining, which pretty much leaves me stuck at home. Any weekend when I could go for a hike or go to a local park, or go to a local park and hike, it’s been raining and when it’s raining all I really want to do is crawl into bed and stay there until it’s dry. It’s affecting my brain which is affecting my mood, which is mostly controlled by my brain.
It’s also bringing up memories of a particularly rainy Christmas when an aunt and uncle came and stayed with us and they brought cousin Kevin.
I’ve said some bad things about cousin Kevin but the truth is he wasn’t a bad guy. He was like eggnog: great in small amounts but if you drink too much it turns cloying, then gummy, then leads to serious intestinal problems and there’s another Christmas no one dreams of and everyone would like to forget.
To get back to counsin Kevin, one summer when we went up to stay with my aunt and uncle at their house cousin Kevin and I had been hanging out for a few hours when he said, “You know, you’ve turned into a pretty cool guy,” which made me really happy. Of course then he added, “The last time I saw you you were short and whiny and your butt stuck out.” And I’m sure if you asked cousin Kevin about me he’d have a few negative things to say about me too. For instance that same summer he told me he had some chores around the house but he’d been putting them off until we arrived so I could help him. The next morning while he was still asleep I slipped out for a walk in the woods so Kevin had to mop the basement floor and clean the outdoor grill and wash the breakfast dishes by himself.
Whether that was annoying or completely justified depends on your point of view.
The Christmas that cousin Kevin came and stayed with us it rained nonstop from the moment he arrived, as though he brought his own personal storm cloud, until the day after Christmas. Fortunately we had, among other things, an Intellivision game console, which cousin Kevin quickly became obsessed with, and also for my birthday, a few days before Christmas, he gave me a set of some really cool fantasy choose-your-own-adventure books. Having worked through them himself cousin Kevin even helped guide me through a couple of them, which was like a cross between Dungeons & Dragons and eggnog.
Then, on the 23rd of December, the Intellivision broke. No one did anything to it–maybe it was a power surge, maybe it was a loose wire, or maybe it just couldn’t take cousin Kevin anymore. By then cousin Kevin had lost interest in the choose-your-own-adventure books but he wouldn’t leave me alone to enjoy them by myself, preferring instead to follow me all over the house complaining about the broken Intellivision, his dismay saturating everything like the nonstop rain outside, and
and if I had a nickel for every time he said, “This really sucks” I could have bought him a first-class ticket home.
So anyway I woke up on the morning of the 26th preparing to scour the house for more nickels when I realized it wasn’t raining. In fact the sun was out. I put on a winter coat and went outside. The air was cold but refreshingly crisp and the ground, starting to dry out, was springy. I walked up to the vacant lots at the top of the hill behind our house and wandered for hours among small cedar trees and rocks sparkling with frost. There were small pools covered with milky ice, patches of brittle, tawny grass, and fluffy birds that chirped at me from bare branches.
And the best part is cousin Kevin had been asleep when I went out so he got stuck washing the breakfast dishes by himself.