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Christmas Promises Kept (Snow in the Desert)

Bing Crosby crooned of a "White Christmas" but ours was the usual muddy brown. The gray sky hung low and heavy, weighted down by riled rain clouds, grumbling with thunder. It was snowing in the mountains and the foothills ranging our valley wore lacy white caps on their scraggly heads but only raindrops fell on us.
"It snows everywhere but here," griped my brother from our front porch, "here, it just rains mud!" At that insult, too close to the truth, the sky opened again and hailstones bounced off the frigid ground. Ice balls leap-frogged across rooftops and ricocheted off cars, coming down pea-sized first and then as big as plums. "God’s playing golf, kids, come on inside," Mom called and we headed in for cocoa, steaming on the stove.
No, snow didn’t favor our valley and December could be too wet for outdoor play but fun is where you find it. Our old linoleum kitchen floor gleamed with wax, polished by Mom’s mavericks skating across it in stocking feet, skidding, sometimes headfirst, into the cast iron stove. We had riotous taffy pulls, baked up jam tarts and made popcorn in Grandma’s old wire caged pan so the hot, bursting kernels wouldn’t zing us in the eyes. On the corner table in our living room, a cherub topped tree showed off her sequined skirt and antique blown glass baubles. Rainbow lights glimmered through her angel-hair frosting, cascading over draping strands of silvery beads. The scent of pine resin, mingled with cinnamon and other baking spices, wafted through the rooms like rich incense. Our old Victrola warbled of Christmas past and Christmas yet to come, while closed doors hid holiday secrets behind heaps of ribbon and pretty paper. Long ago, our grandmother, with two hired men, had built a woodframe house that sheltered generations. Her Victory Garden still nestled near the henhouse and climbing roses curtained the kitchen window. By the time we baby boomers toddled along, breezes slithered through the seasoned walls and the wallpaper had faded. Pale hoopskirted ladies and gentlemen clad in riding clothes beckoned us into dreamland and night winds whistled harmony, as Mom and Grandma sang us bon voyage. Most country families worked hard for necessities, with little or no money for toys but children are inventive and we made do. Raiding closets and trunks for old clothing, hats and costume jewelry, we tickled our childish fancy. Upturned, sheet draped kitchen chairs became a covered wagon and we were on our way to Californ-i-ay. Our brothers, wearing charcoal mustaches, played desperados to our damsels in distress, until we girls rewrote the script. Tired of indoor sport, we ran to the window, hoping for signs of snow but the sky was quiet and we collapsed on the floor in boredom. Then, Grandma came in all bundled up, cocked her head at me and asked, "Want to come with me, child?" While she topped off a cardboard crate with food and fixin’s, I threw on my coat and cap, pulled on my galoshes and mittens and trailed her out the door. As we left the house, Grandma handed me a small brown paper bag, warning, "Careful now, these are eggs, cotton wrapped but fragile." Taking pride in her trust, I cradled them like babies in my arms. We sang carols to the cattle congregation, as we traipsed long and empty blacktop roads, passing small dairies and farms. Cows chewed their cuds and meditated on our melodies, some nodding their heads and lowing in soft accompaniment. Leaving blacktop and bovine chorus behind, we turned into a narrow, twisted byway, clustered with cottages and rusting cars. Sagging shacks gazed at us from tired, torn plastic covered windows, stains of winter rainstorms weeping down their weary walls. Nearing the smallest and most forlorn, Grandma raised her hand to rap on the door, then looked down at me, "Remember to smile and say ‘Merry Christmas’ when you give her your sack." At that, the door swung open and we were welcomed in. Carefully setting her carton down on a rickety, three-legged table, Grandma wrapped her arms around the young mother, who greeted her warmly in return. A little girl and two small boys sprang up and down like wriggling, squealing human yo-yo’s, trying to peer into the mysterious box. Their mother turned her pleasured smile in my direction and I responded, remembering Grandma’s words as I offered her my greeting and the little bag of eggs. The box gave up a frozen hen, home canned peas and corn, a tub of oatmeal, fresh baked bread, bacon, flour, potatos and pickled string beans. The parade marched on, with a bottle of milk, homemade peach preserves and applesauce, sugar, spices, cocoa and four bow-tied gingerbread men. "Oh, Thank you, Ma!" the mother cried, "God bless your heart, for all you do - now we’ll have a Christmas to last all week long!" Not done, Grandma pulled out colorful soft parcels and handed three to each child. As those saucer-eyed little ones opened the paper, I saw the turquoise sweater I’d worn last year, my little brother’s jacket and my sister’s tan corduroy overalls. Gathering our best and warmest outgrown clothing, she’d brought coats and sweaters, mittens and caps, pajamas and socks. Then, from her bottomless box came our too tight but still sturdy, cleaned, polished and newly laced shoes. Chattering in dizzy delight, those children caressed every item as if it were a prized toy truck or a beautiful doll. Rushing to her, crying, "Thank you, Grandma!" they clasped her in a circle, hugging her legs, their upturned faces flushed, their eyes glistening. Then, Grandma opened the very last package, revealing a tiny, handmade, tinseled Christmas tree. As the children gasped at so much glory, their mother murmured, "You’re the angel on our tree, Ma." Walking home with Grandma’s hand in mine, thoughts tumbled through my head. I saw again that young mom’s sad and tired face energize with joy when she found my Grandma at her door. I recalled the chill when we’d walked inside those walls and the glowing warmth the little house held when we finally left. "Gee, that was nice. I’m glad you let me help but why," I wondered, "do they call you ‘Ma’ and ‘Grandma’ too?" Setting her sight on the silver horizon, she replied, "Well, I reckon I’m as close to family as they’ve got. Sometimes, a friend is as good as family, when life is hard. We don’t have much but there’s always someone, somewhere, who’s bound to have less. Seems the least we can do is help one small family get through the week. Christmas is a promise of hope, child, and this is how that promise is kept." That night, we kids sipped our hot chocolate, slipped into our flannel pajamas and snuggled in our bunkbeds with socks on our feet, warm under the patchwork quilts Grandma had stitched for each of us. With steepled hands, we said our prayers, then Mom and Grandma, perched on the bottom bunks, lullabyed us softly away with Wynken, Blynken and Nod. I drifted off, sorting toys and books in my sleepy head, for the friends I’d found that day. We woke to a brittle, steel blue sky, hushed, as if it were waiting for something to happen or holding back one last surprise. Christmas was racing up on us and we were edgy for the big day to arrive. Crowded around the heater as we slipped into our warmest woolies, we peeked out the window to see what this day had brought. No one breathed - it couldn’t be and yet it was - snowing. A giggling tangle of arms and legs, we kids were tripping over our own and each other’s feet, in our haste to embrace the flurry. It was as if angels were opening up their pillows, scattering feathers over a dusting powder landscape. Wispy snowflakes fluttered down to meet us, melting on our upturned faces, dissolving on our stuck-out tongues. Scouring the yard for soft handfuls that almost melted at our touch, we molded them together, building our very first snowman. This cool character stood, at best, eighteen inches high, his twiggy arms reaching out, pebble buttons running down his white coat to match his pebbled eyes. A bubble-pipe and a baseball cap lent him a jaunty air and he expressed his appreciation with a crooked licorice smile. Mom cranked the handle on her Brownie, urging, "Get in the picture, everybody and hold still – let’s get this over before your Frosty’s a puddle!" My brother ran up, hooting, "Wooee! I told ya it was gonna snow!" In the jangle of jeers and giggles, Grandma stepped out on the porch and she and I shared a smile, at all the wonders of this Christmas.
Grandma’s box held treasure trove and, when those kids tried on their clothing, it all fit, with room to grow. After sending us off to sleep, she must’ve mended, washed and ironed, till our rooster woke the sun. Though our cupboards sometimes rivaled Mother Hubbard’s, Grandma hadn’t stripped them bare. We had our Christmas dinner, while in a weathered cottage down a winding lane, another family had reason to raise their hands in grace.
This is why you shouldn\'t copy others
[HOT VIDEO] This is why you shouldn\'t copy others

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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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