I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and back then, I won’t give away my age here but it was sometime during the last ice age, we pretty much counted on a white Christmas every year.
It was a time when sea levels were much lower than they are now and there was a land bridge between North America and Asia.
And it snowed in the winter. A lot.
It snowed so much that we never wondered if we would have a white Christmas or not. We rarely wondered if we would have a white Thanksgiving.
We just did.
For some reason, even though there was already snow on the ground on Christmas Eve, the universe would dump another foot or two overnight as if to make sure that six-year-olds, with brand-new sleds, would have plenty of virgin power to test them out in.
Nearly every memory I have of Christmas, as a kid growing up in that great, white north was just extraordinary, bordering on supernatural. I’m sure that’s true of most kids growing up in middle class America during the last ice age. But there is something otherworldly about waking up on Christmas morning before the sun, standing in the twinkling light of the Christmas tree, looking out the front door and not being able to see the steps up to the front porch.
There are no streets or curbs or sidewalks. There is only a single, unbroken blanket of fizzy brilliance as snowflakes the size of silver dollars fall silently and constantly straight down, as if in slow motion.
This morning, Linda and I went out to a local Starbucks for coffee and just outside the door was a young girl, probably about 13-years-old, sitting on what was clearly a brand-new Christmas bicycle and guarding a second one nearby, likely belonging to her older sister.
As I passed her I asked, “Is that a new Christmas bike you have there?”
Of course it was. Once inside Linda and I talked about how a new bike had to be one of the ultimate Christmas presents a kid could get. I told her that we never got bikes for Christmas because you couldn’t use it for another 6 months. You’d just sit in the basement and look at it and dream about summer as an ice storm raged outside.
The way I remember it, we weren’t rich or even as well off as more than half the kids I knew at school, but the economy was pretty good during the last ice age and we all loved Christmas.
One of the things that has stayed with me for all these millennia was the excitement of dragging all the boxes of Christmas lights and decorations down from the attic. Opening up those boxes and taking out all the ornaments meant Christmas was finally and officially here and it always slammed me back to the year before.
I would remember putting those things away the year before like it was yesterday and then, there was the smell.
The scent of last year’s Christmas tree still lingered inside those boxes as if you’d just cut it down and rolled around in the sap.
Inevitably, in the haste to put an end to Christmas and return it to it’s tomb, some pine needles or maybe a small bit of a branch still attached to a bulb or an icicle would get packed away. I grew up loving the smell of the remnants of last year’s Christmas tree. It is still one of my favorite memories of Christmas as a kid.
Now, and for the past few years, Linda and I purposely take a piece of our tree from the current year and pack it away with all the ornaments and decorations.
The photo above is of the top of our tree from last year and a small slice of the trunk which we packed away on January 5, 2008 at about 4:45 p.m.
When we took it out of it’s storage tub a few weeks ago, it smelled awesome and as always, slammed me back to Christmases during the last ice age.