Dreaming of my white Christmases

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2006

As I write this, Christmas is just over a week away. It's so warm today (Sunday) it's hard to believe it is even December, much less almost time for Santa to make his annual rounds.

Like most kids growing up in the warm and temperate climate of the Deep South, I always fruitlessly dreamed of a white Christmas.

It never failed to snow at Christmastime on TV. You could be certain every ‘60s and ‘70s-era holiday special featuring Bing or Bob, Perry or Andy, would feature scenes with snow (even if it was just the artificial kind, sent flying by studio technicians on a California sound stage).

I listened to my mother's stories of growing up on the Cumberland Plateau in middle Tennessee where the snow was definitely the real, send-from-the-heavens-above kind, with &#8220one big snow hardly melting off before another snow came.”

&#8220The lakes and ponds would all ice over thick and we would go skating. We had a wonderful time playing in the snow,” Mama would recall with a smile.

There are photos, shot with the family's little Kodak Brownie box camera,  showing my two older sisters romping in the Tennessee snow, laughing and tossing snow balls at one another (if I was around by then, I was too small to remember it).

My dad had a set of Popular Mechanics encyclopedias featuring instructions on how to build a snow fort for the kiddies. I would pull it out every so often, and imagine hiding behind those icy walls, firing frozen missiles at some &#8220enemy.” I would read recipes for making ice cream out of fresh snow and wonder how much fun it would be to flap my arms and legs and make angels in all that beautiful, powdery white stuff.

I wanted to take a sleigh ride, the horses' bells jingling &#8220all the way;” I pined to go walking in a winter wonderland, where the &#8220snow was glistenin.'”

And so I dreamed on.

I experienced a handful of snow events here in Alabama while growing up (most of which melted all too quickly to enjoy) but never one at Christmas. The closest we got was the snowy angel hair Mama arranged around the candleholder my uncle had hand crafted for Grandma, one made for each of her children.

I did eventually get my wish for white Christmases. It took moving to the Midwest with my Air Force officer hubby to achieve it.

Western South Dakota has a semi-arid desert climate. If it weren't for the winter snows, the area would constantly be in a drought situation.

It is not a frozen wasteland for six months of the year, as many here envision.

There are big snows and little snows, and balmy periods in January and February when it is actually warmer in Rapid City then it is here in Greenville.

The winter snows are light and powdery, ideal for those who went skiing at nearby Terry Peak.

The evergreens covering the Black Hills looked lovely with their snowy caps, like those Christmas book illustrations I had so admired as a child.

My favorite time to visit Mount Rushmore was during the middle of the winter, when the crowds of tourists were no where to be seen, the icy wind whipped across the observation deck, and the presidents looked somehow more &#8220presidential” against the snowy backdrop.

I had finally found my winter wonderland.

Years later, I would sit in the living room of our house in Eastern Nebraska, admiring the lights on the Christmas tree, sipping hot cocoa and watching the snowflakes fall soundlessly outside the rental house's picture window.

Believe me, I don't miss scraping inches of ice from my windshield at night after work, or getting stuck in the street trying to get to my driveway. And I've fallen on slippery stairs and sidewalks enough for a couple of lifetimes.

My husband sure doesn't miss shoveling sidewalks.

But we do miss those silent, winter nights, with the moonlight glistening gently on the new-fallen snow.

I'm glad I finally got my white Christmases.

May your days be merry and bright!

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com.