THE CALIFORNIA CHRISTMAS BIT

Snow on Grouse Mountain

Snow on Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…

So I just realized that the side topic of snow kind of “drifted” into each of my last two posts (about Vancouver and the fall).  Yeah, ’tis the season (ask Buffalo…), but I think it’s become a thing with me.  As a lifelong coastal Californian, I wonder if I’ve ended up with a complex about snow – or really about the general lack of it in my life’s experience.  Does the upcoming holiday season have to be snowy like in all the songs to be legit?  Must the weather outside be frightful?  And can’t a person just, like, heat chestnuts in a microwave..?  I’ve been shaking up a snow globe full of Christmas memories to see if I can figure this out.

I’ve always had a hard time relating to those songs about the holiday season that celebrate snow and cold.  Growing up in the Bay Area, a white Christmas was rarely anything but a dream unless the folks and my big brothers and I traveled somewhere else to find it.

A defrosting Mum (I think...)

A defrosting Mum (I think…)

We did get away for some especially wintry and picturesque holidays in Oregon – although the trips made me realize that when it comes to living in the cold, I truly am as soft as, well, snow.  One Christmas in beautiful Sunriver in Central Oregon (near Mt. Bachelor and the fantastic High Desert Museum), Dad decided it would be good for me to get some practice at winter driving.  So I got behind the wheel of the family Jetta, listened carefully to all Dad’s sage instructions – then promptly fishtailed us into a snow bank from which we had to shovel ourselves free…

Dad was always wonderfully cool about that kind of mishap.  And I was relieved to find on looking in the back seat that Mum was cool on this occasion too – but she may have been busy dealing with some climate adjustments of her own.

Oh what fun it is to ride…

Clearly, we were all better off when I turned the wintertime driving reins over to someone else – which I literally did when we once got to try the one-horse open sleigh thing.  On another Sunriver holiday, Mum had arranged for a sleigh ride for the whole family – the only thing she and the resort couldn’t quite arrange was for accommodating weather.

The forecast wasn’t just poor by my wimpy standards – it was seriously blustery…

Even so, we gamely showed up (toddling along in layer upon layer of clothing) and piled into a festively decorated sleigh that was right out of a Currier and Ives print.  Our guide gave us a blanket as an additional layer against the cold and falling snow – except it wasn’t so much falling snow hitting our faces and eyeballs as it was horizontally-propelled mini-chips of pain.  Again, despite this, we weren’t going to give up on the experience – I mean, it sounded so great in the song!

So we three generations of Parmeters huddled beneath the blanket in excited anticipation (I think it was all Parmeters – but under those layers, who could tell..?).  The guide squeezed into the sleigh with us and gave the reins a confident shake.  Our one-horse pricked up its ears, took several clops straight into the blinding sleet – and then on no uncertain terms clocked out for the rest of the day.  Ah well.  I’m sure a sleigh ride of more than a few feet would have been delightful but, in truth, I’m good with maybe a minute or two of jingling bells – I don’t need to jingle all the way.

See, that’s the thing.  For holiday songs to have sentimental meaning for me, I’d have to jury-rig the words.

Over the Grapevine and through LA to Grandmother’s house we go!

Christmas with the Kananens

Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa.

Now these lyrics bring to mind the kind of holidays I remember!  My family didn’t travel over rivers or through woods to get to Grandma and Grandpa K’s in Westwood, California (and later Escondido) – we journeyed south alongside the California Aqueduct and past all kinds of phone poles (which are wood so, you know, they kind of count).  We never saw Frosty the Snowman waving from among the ordered rows of fruit trees and grapevines – but some of the steadily pumping oil drills along Highway 99 were decorated with faces and greeted us with jolly, happy nods as we drove by.

Pathwayyys boasting little open fires…

There was no blanket of white covering the yard when we got to Grandma and Grandpa K’s (except one year, a spike in the local rabbit population left the golf course behind them blanketed in hoards of white-tailed bunnies – which is an awesome sight when you’re five!).  Jack Frost never once got all up in my face there.  And none of the folks dressed up like Eskimos (although people now seem to think a good UGG boot in a pop of color helps make any season bright).  But there were open fires – lots of them.  In keeping with neighborhood tradition, my grandparents would line the path to their front door with candles propped up in handfuls of sand and glowing pleasantly from inside paper sacks – it made a magical welcome for our NoCal clan.

"All for me..?"

“Mine..?”

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

You know what?  I’m going to leave this lyric alone.

Because my relationship with it might not always be comfortable, but I’ll still take snow anytime I can get it.  I’ll never forget as a kid sitting with Mum in a Yosemite Valley dining room and gaping out the window at the biggest and still the best and most perfect snowflakes I’ve ever seen.  And snowy weather always made a great reason for Dad to build and expertly tend a warm and cheery fire in our rented cabin at Sunriver, where a lovely evening’s entertainment was simply to stare into it and chat.

In the end, though, I prefer to think holiday snow is more a state of mind – a cozy blanket of good feeling we can wrap around ourselves no matter what the climate.  Because even without anything white in my grandparents’ yard (except for those bunnies and some stray country club golf balls), my California Christmases were merry and bright all the same.  Our decorated tree was still fragrant; hot cider (and later, buttered rum) still tasted yummy even if we weren’t cold; and though I didn’t need gloves to keep warm while strolling the brushy SoCal hillsides, I still loved having my hand in Grandpa K’s.

tesserology boys at xmas

Ever “The Boys”

So bring on the holiday tunes!

I‘ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me;

Please have candles propped up in lunch bags,

and mistletoe that Dad the Plant Pathology Professor brought back from the field,

and presents on…

Okay, I’m sorry – but presents on the tree?  C’mon, who even does that?

Anyway, I’ll take this opportunity to wish a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season to all – and whether it’s the real snow-covered deal or simply a feeling in the heart, may all your Christmases be white!

Snowy day at Sunriver

Snowy day at Sunriver

 

7 comments

  1. Spira, Immanuel (TNTO) · · Reply

    Love the pic of your mom (or should I say “mum”?)!

  2. You play hockey so you couldn’t that soft or that adverse to frozen water droplets:) And, your Christmas outfit is fetching.

    1. A fair point, Laura – but many would argue I’m wimpy on the ice too! 😉 And thank you on the outfit – that was a bold style choice wasn’t it?

  3. I too still haven’t seen a White Christmas, though the odds are much better now that I’ve moved to the Sierra foothills (25 miles from Yosemite, at 3000′). We had two snow storms last Winter, including one on April Fool’s Day, Mother Nature’s practical joke on us all. I do think your comment about chestnuts in the microwave deserves a rebuttal, though. One sight and smell I’ll never forget is of chestnuts roasting on an open fire on the street corners of several European cities (Paris and Vienna, as well as other smaller locales). Sometimes the vendor would get distracted so you’d smell more of a “burn” than a “roast”, but in any case, buying a paper cone filled with hot chestnuts to munch on as you walked along the wintry streets was a wonderful treat. Get yourself over to Europe in the winter and you’ll see what I mean!

    1. Wowww, I’ll bet roasting chestnuts with a European backdrop does sound (and I’m sure would smell) pretty fantastic – I’m sold! Thanks for sharing and, yeah, I imagine some snow is coming your way!

  4. Hi Amy,
    Love your blog – especially the photos, so – I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. You can read all the details about this here:http://chasingserenitywithalens.com/2014/12/20/1-week-2-extremes-2/

    Have a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015
    Frances

    1. Many thanks! And a very Merry Christmas and happy 2015 – I’ll be looking forward to the images you share!

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