We had some snowy Christmases, Stephanie and I. It’s unavoidable when you live in the midwest. But the snow had always been on the ground for days or weeks before. Only once did we have what I’d call a genuine White Christmas – where there’s no snow on the ground the day before, but you wake up on Christmas and fresh snow has covered everything overnight.
Well, we had a genuine White Christmas in Madison this morning. Where yesterday there was grass, today’s there’s snow. It looks nice, and Stephanie would’ve been enchanted. Me, I’m a little less than enchanted. “It looks nice” is all you’ll get from me.
Actually, Steph would've squealed like a little kid at the snow, and would've wanted to go outside and play in it (though there isn't really enough snow to do anything but look at it). And if she was here, she would've gotten a stocking full of trinkets and mini-whiskeys, and I would've gotten one too, and we'd be having Mom's Breakfast Casserole, our traditional breakfast for Christmas. Maybe we'd go for a walk, to see the nutty neighbor's house that always decked out like the Griswolds, or we'd go for a drive, through the delightful light display in Olin Park.
Instead I ate a Spam sandwich, read the newspaper on-line, and now I'm writing about the spirit of Christmas Past. Christmas Present has no spirit, and the notion of Christmas Future seems unlikely and irrelevant.
For years before Steph, and for almost every Christmas we were together, we went to a movie on Christmas – except for one year when she wasn’t feeling well, and one year when there was nothing playing anywhere that interested either of us in the slightest. Goes without saying, I didn't go to the movies today. Didn't even check to see what's playing.
And so this is Christmas, but I’m really not feeling it. It's just another day. No tree, no twinkly lights, no ham roll-ups, no cards, no season’s greetings beyond the bare minimum required by social interaction – meaning, if someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, I’ll say it back and try to make it sound sincere. Heck, it is sincere – if I wish you a merry Christmas, I bloody well want you to enjoy your 25th of December. I ain’t lying. I’m just not participating.
Any day with Stephanie was a good day, and we had some memorable Christmases. Our best Christmas story is probably our first one, half-told already, but I’m saving the second half for where it fits chronologically. It was 1997, not long after we'd arrived in San Francisco, so we’ll get to that point in our stories within a few weeks or chapters or whatever these entries are.
There is, though, another Christmas story I’d forgotten, which came to mind with this morning’s snowfall. It’s worth telling because it shows just how stubborn, how plucky Stephanie could be. One Christmas some years ago (2008, or 2009 or 10, I’d guess), we were going to eat at a Chinese buffet on the west side of town, and then catch a movie at the discount cinema.
Our apartment has a parking lot in the back, and before Steph was in a wheelchair we usually parked there. So we strolled out to the parking lot, and found glass and snow all over the seats of the car. Yup, fresh snow – that was the first genuine White Christmas we had, before today. And some time between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, someone had smashed our driver's side window, and rummaged through whatever was in the car.
They didn’t steal the car, and that was nice of him or her, but why anyone would break into our car is a mystery. Our car was a beater, almost ten years old, with rust stains and dents and a cracked windshield, and a mess of fast-food wrappers in the back seat. And what did they get for their trouble? The only thing missing was a map-book of Wisconsin, value perhaps $10. And the driver’s side window.
It would’ve been easy to scuttle our plans. That was my reaction – it sucks, but Christmas was over. Maybe we could call out for Chinese delivery, and watch one of our DVDs or something on Netflix, and start pricing our options for getting the window replaced. Because what else are we going to do? Are we going to drive across town and go to Christmas dinner and a movie without a window?
Yup. That's what we did. Stephanie insisted. “Nobody’s going to Grinch our Christmas,” she said. “Do we have cardboard? Do we have duct tape?” While I swept glass bits from the seat and floor, Steph measured the window with a ruler, and then cut a chunk of cardboard to exactly the right size and shape, and duct-taped it to the car. She left one side of the cardboard only lightly taped, so she could fold it back while she was driving, allowing her to see out the side window. Total time lost: perhaps twenty minutes.
Then she drove us across the city, where we had a good but not great Christmas dinner at a so-so Chinese buffet that’s not there any more. And we went to the movie theater, where we enjoyed the show very much, though I don’t recall what we saw.
What I recall is, we celebrated Christmas our way. What I recall is, my wife was stubborn and determined, an impressive woman – and I told her. Once Stephanie’s mind was made up she got things done, and she was pretty good with an X-Acto knife.