It is Sunday in December and the first snowfall of the season has begun. Falling large and heavy laden with wet, the snowflakes plummet to the prairie ground and quickly begin to cover the green grass and rooftops. The Christmas tree decorated the day before, is brightly aglow and adorned with the same pearl balls and silver bells which have dressed the tree since we became a family thirty-eight years ago. Christmas carols are being sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, their harmonic voices filling every room of the house. I reminisce about times past in times present. Memories of our children gathered and excited in the Christmas Season, writing letters to Santa and trying with all their might to be good in hopes that St. Nick will arrive Christmas Eve with their favorite toy nestled somewhere in his red sleigh.
Donning my winter coat and boots I venture outside in the snow and quiet. A pileated woodpecker beckons in the stillness. Neighbors begin to venture outside with shovels and scarves in hand, smiling, laughing and chatting about the predicted accumulations of thirty centimeters over three days. It is minus one degree outside, just right. Not bitter or cold and no wind blows. It is still. The beauty of the day is calling this December early afternoon. I light a fire in the outside firepit and watch the smoke and pinewood embers fill the air. The fire is warm and comforting reminding of campfires past and the fun shared there. Retrieving my sound system and Christmas music selection, I plug it in outside and hit play. Christmas carols fill the dense air and along with the smoke drifts across the neighborhood. No Christmas is complete without liquors to warm the belly and I bring out assorted varieties along with colorful glasses and place them in the new snow. Our neighbors begin to gather tempted by memories of long ago but, not forgotten.
We all stand around the fire sipping merrily from our glasses. The music, fire and gathering of neighbors we have known for thirty-five years have not aged a day. We sing and laugh and share stories of the times we shared with our children, the fun, the joys, the sorrows. We decide that our neighborhood was and still remains the best in our community. The snow falls heavier and the fire burns brighter, the laughter echo louder and Sinatra continues to sing White Christmas along with Bing Crosby. Many neighbors are preparing to spend Christmas with their children or winter vacations in far off lands where ocean, beaches and sand and sun are beckoning. Today is magical and everyone agrees, standing together around a fire as neighbors brings to light joy and warmth felt in the heart.
Together we toast to a very Merry Christmas and health in the New Year. We hug and wish each other safe journeys this winter season knowing we will reconnect in Spring, coming together once again tanned and glowing brown. But, for today we will hold close the gathering of neighbors and friends, the memories shared and new ones begun. Our neighbors leave the circle of warmth, pick up their shovels and head off home, the snow now wet and soaked. And the pileated woodpecker returns calling out, announcing the approaching dusk of the late December afternoon. Stillness returns and the whispering laughter of children playing in the first snowfall touches my soul.