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(Painting of a snow scene by Monet)

“La pie – The magpie” by Monet

On that Christmas Eve, my little sister, six years younger than I, had been sent off to bed. She went gladly, since she thought Santa wouldn’t come until she was asleep. I wasn’t a bit jealous that I wouldn’t have sugar plums dancing in my head; I got to stay up and help bring the presents out of hiding and place them around the tree. My other two siblings, full-fledged teenagers, were watching Perry Como’s Christmas Special in the den.

Mother, Father and I did a good job of displaying the gifts and filling the stockings. “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” could be heard from the room down the hall.

“Are we going to get snow for Christmas?” I asked.

“They’re saying we might get a dusting,” Mom replied.

Soon my father, who had worked all day, retired for the night; and Mom returned to the kitchen to take care of a few last details for our traditional Christmas-morning breakfast. I hung around the tree, soaking in the magic of colored lights, cedar scent, gifts wrapped in Christmas motif paper and tied with ribbon that curled (as a result of being run along the blade of a pair of scissors).

(Curled Ribbon on a Present)

The evening began to draw to a close when Mom reappeared from around the dining room wall and asked, “I’m going to midnight church. Do you want to go?”

Since Mom did not drive, I knew going along meant walking a half mile in the cold. But, it didn’t seem right that she should go alone. “Sure,” I responded.

We pulled on boots and bundled up in as many layers as we could wear and still be able to walk. Then we headed out. The cold sky was starless and the moon fought to show itself, as a blanket of clouds moved across it. We trudged along with only the sparsely-placed light posts to illuminate our way. About half-way on our journey, snow began to fall. By the time we reached the church doors, the grass could still be seen, bristling through the new-fallen snow, but the sidewalks were only wet, since every flake dissolved upon impact. True to the weatherman’s word, we were getting a dusting.

(People walking in snow)

The church was warm, candle-lit, and filled with the sweet sounds of a choir that must have been as close as human beings can get to angelic hosts. By the time we emerged from the church, the landscape was completely transformed. The grass was covered over with three good inches and every tree branch was lined with white. The storm had come and gone, resulting in a starlit sky and a moon that no longer played second fiddle to the clouds. The dark and ill-defined landscape was illuminated, as if every neighbor had turned on their yard lights for us.

(Painting of people walking in the snow by Monet)

Mom and I walked down the long sidewalk and were about to cross the street, when a neighbor rolled down his car window and shouted, “Want a ride!?”

To my absolute amazement and total delight, Mom called back, “No, thank you!” Then she looked at me and smiled. I smiled back in response to her gift.

On that early Christmas morning, Mom and I walked home in the perfectly set stage of a winter wonderland; and I received a gift—my best childhood Christmas memory and my best memory with my mother.

~ A.R. Cecil