Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Christmas of 1947

The Christmas of 1947 started out on a not-too-promising note:
It was “green”.

Despite the renditions of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas “ on our radios – renditions so continuous they were like the Monks’ spinning prayer wheels in Tibet – there was no snow on the ground , and not even a flurry in the air.

It was Christmas vacation , and we wanted to race our sleds down Zobel’s Hill with friends from school, but the Weatherman was not cooperating, and the steep slopes remained a disappointing brown.

We wanted to skate, but the weather had been unseasonably warm,and what little ice had formed was black and treacherous.

Christmas Eve was the usual : the adults rushing about frantically to get ready for midnight services ; the kids heading reluctantly to bed. We were too old to believe in Santa Claus, but just young enough for a little of the holiday magic to rub off on us.

We got through Christmas Day , with its mandatory big dinner in the dining room , and visitors and relatives a kid could live without – rather nicely if you want the truth : an aunt who couldn’t stop talking ; a stout,jolly priest who couldn’t say a short “grace” - or no to second helpings. After that, there were chores to be done. (Cows and horses,and pigs and chickens don’t take the day off – ever !)

The next evening, I got permission to “go uptown” – about a 20 minute walk . There wasn’t much going on – outside of the local gin mills, and the diner, but the Christmas lights looked pretty nice – especially with those big soft flakes of snow coming down.

“Yay ! Christmas vacation is saved !” , we shouted.

Little did we know we were looking at the beginning of the Blizzard of 1947: a storm that would cripple much of the Central Plains and the Northeast for weeks : leaving at least 80 dead in its wake.

Little did we know, that when our road was finally plowed, the plow drifts at the sides of the road would be at least 12 feet high; that in New York City, it took thousands of men, digging for weeks,at a cost in the millions to restore service to NY’s subway system.

Sometimes I wonder if all those impassioned wishes for a White Christmas did it . I do know I haven’t felt quite the same about that song since the Christmas of ’47 !


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