When I was in my mid-20s, I asked Santa for a house, but got a shirt instead. Apparently, Santa didn’t care what I wanted, so I stopped believing in him. I’ve become so cynical these past few years I’m starting to have doubts about the Easter Bunny, too.
So far the only one who’s delivered the goods is Old Man Winter. Last year, I asked him for lots of snow and the geezer came through. Our town got 55 inches of snow, instead of our usual 25. Of course, there’s no pleasing some people. You’d be amazed how upset some folks were, bellyaching about having to shovel a little snow. Like my wife, for instance, even though I had given her a new shovel for Christmas.
This year, I’m giving Santa the chance to redeem himself so have asked him for a white Christmas. There’s nothing worse than waking up on Christmas morning and seeing dead brown grass instead of snow. Well, maybe cancer is worse, but just barely. It depends on the kind of cancer. I had skin cancer last year and not having snow for Christmas was definitely worse than my skin cancer, which the doctor fixed in five minutes. Yes, I’m a cancer survivor, but I prefer not to talk about it. No sense getting people all depressed.
Where was I? Oh, yes, snow for Christmas. Twelve inches, please. I’m a pastor and have to work on Christmas Eve, so if the snow could start falling in the late afternoon of the 24th and get me a day off work, that would be even better. Then I’d apologize to Santa Claus for ever doubting him. Twelve inches of snow, then a cold snap so it won’t melt for at least two months. Thirty, maybe 40 below zero, so it would be too cold for school and my wife could stay home and carry in firewood for our woodstove. Thanks to me, she’s in tremendous shape for a woman in her 50s.
As wonderful as snow is, it’s odd that it leads to the worst thing ever, which is slush. Slush is even worse than dead brown grass at Christmas. Dead brown grass doesn’t spill over the tops of your shoes and soak your socks.
The best thing about snow is the stillness. I guess what I’m really asking Santa for is peace and quiet. When it snows people stay home, except for our town’s snowplow driver, Ray Whitaker, who passes by in the moon hours, his amber strobe casting shadows across our bedroom wall. We live on the north edge of town, the Welcome to Danville sign is in our side yard. Ray plows the street up to the sign, then puts his truck in reverse. I can hear the beeper on his truck as he backs up a half block, turns around, and heads into town.
For the 14 years my dad served on the town board, he took doughnuts to Ray the morning after every snowfall, but would always bring one home to me. Whenever it snows, I think of doughnuts. Dad no longer drives, so now I’m the doughnut man. Ray has the streets clear by 6 a.m., so I drive to Kroger, buy a box of doughnuts, and take them to Ray, who is at the town garage, brushing the snow off his truck before pulling it into the bay. If it snows on Christmas Eve this year, Ray will have to do without doughnuts since Kroger is closed on Christmas morning. My wife will make him blueberry coffee cake instead.
Ray complains whenever it snows, but it’s all a show. Like most men, he loves an adventure, and there are few things as exciting as being out in a heavy snow. Sometimes I’ll even take Ray doughnuts before the streets are cleared, just for the thrill of it. There are three hills between our house and town, so I have to get a good head of steam up before hitting each hill. Even so, my tires spin, as does my mind, to silent winters past.