It had rained earlier and the table top was still wet. Heavy fog held the moisture and warmth in the air but it was a perfect afternoon to sit outside the café and drink my coffee. With the extra napkins, I cleared a spot for my journal and began writing. It seemed odd to be the day before Christmas. The weather was unseasonal for sure, but a fitting contrast to the flow of my thoughts. From my perch behind the row of shrubs I watched the hustle of last minute shoppers, intent on checking every item off the list. As hundreds of cars navigated the busy intersection with big box shopping centers on every corner, my mind was adrift, floating carefree to a snowy Christmas past. A time even before my time. A time when there was no need for a list.
Many, many seasons ago, long before I was born, deep in the mountains of West Virginia snow began to fall on Christmas Eve. I can imagine my mother, as a little girl, peering from the window with excitement as each snowflake fell silently from the sky. One by one they would land on the cold hard ground. Earth and frozen water merged into one landscape as minutes became hours and soon a white blanket spreads evenly across every contour, wrapping the base of each fence post and tree with precision.
The grumble and growl of the furnace offers comfort, knowing that all will be warm whatever storm may come. The sweet aromas of her mother’s baking consume the four room house. Soon there will be cookies to decorate, and that famous boiled custard. The excitement builds on such a glorious night. Yet, she waits still by the window. Somewhere over the ridge her father is out there, loading hay from the barn, feeding the cows and breaking ice so they have water to drink. She will hear the familiar rumble of the tractor’s engine before she sees her daddy through the fog and falling snow. He will appear soon though, sitting atop the hard metal seat and turning the wide steering wheel, navigating each bend with little concern. The road buried beneath a foot of snow, but he has made the trek a thousand times or more. He knows the way home. The narrow front tires form a neat parallel crease through the pristine blanket only to be followed by the wide arrow tread of the big back tractor tires. By morning the tracks will be filled and the blanket again smooth.
Once he’s home there will be no more traffic along the drive of their remote home, hidden in a valley beneath towering hills. Throughout the nearby village there are similar scenes, with families gathering to celebrate the season. Yet no holiday visitors would come calling that year. The nearest neighbor would be miles away, but no one would consider going out on such a night anyway. The surrounding mountains rise and fall at steep angles and covered with snow and ice it would be nearly impossible to pass. There would be no reason to leave, especially on Christmas Eve.
Many hours and days have been spent preparing for nights like this. Hogs and cows butchered in the fall hang in the meat house, the cupboards are full of flower and corn meal, while the walls of the cellar are lined with shelves filled with jars from the summer’s garden harvest. Little jars of jellies and jams hint of warmer days spent picking berries while skipping along dusty trails.
White dust continued to fall that December night and the gentle glow of colorful lights flickered inside foggy windows. From a distance high above the humble home, nestled in the valley below, appears like an island, frozen in time, yet filled with an abundance of life and love. Fresh baked cookies decorated with great care placed on flower pattern saucer next to a glass of milk, squeezed from the cow that morning, await the man in the red suit. Could Santa possibly find his way through the brutal elements, and would he even dare to try? A girl can only hope, and dream. What then would those dreams of a little girl be made of? What might she wish for above all else? A new doll? Is that all, a new doll.
We often long for simpler times, when less was more, though in many ways life back then was not simple at all. Merely surviving required much planning and effort, and time. Today our cupboards and freezers are full, yet it requires little thought, or time. Rather we spend our time rushing here, then there, to check another item off the list.
And while a little girl slept, safe and secure, Santa braved the cold and snow that night and found the cookies and milk, still warm. The next morning she awoke bursting with days and weeks of pent up excitement born only from the magic of Christmas. Beneath the tree a dream came true, and no doll has ever been more loved.