I've been watching the weather channel on an hourly basis as many of us do (some might say pathologically) here in central New York. Fifty one weeks a year I listen to meteorologists with squinted eye, waiting for the inevitable news: rain (well, there goes golf); wind (and there goes my garbage can down the street). In winter months, the news is usually snow. And snow. And snow. Last year, if memory serves, it started snowing in early December and didn't stop until spring. At one point in March I recall standing hip-deep in the stuff searching for tiny Harry, who had vanished into a snowbank. The flakes are great from inside the house, drifting past the window in magical patterns. Outside, when the car wheels are spinning and the steps are buried, the magic fades.
This week, though, I'm clicking on the weather channel with eyes wide open, cheering for cold temperatures and plump clouds. We got a dusting over the weekend, which caused me to squeal with delight (I squealed, I actually did). The snow is pretty much gone now as is my squealing. Christmas is Sunday and I want a white one. WHITE, not greenish brown. Are you hearing me Al Roker?
What's the deal with wanting a white Christmas anyway? I have Florida friends who brag about hitting the beach after opening presents, a practice so antithetical my own holiday visions that, in hearing about it, my brain has to reboot itself. Swimsuits and Santa? That does not compute. Facts are facts, however: warm weather at Christmas works fine for many people and clearly, this dogged need for snow on December 25th is a problem of my own. Again, why?
My nephew answered the question for me recently. He was in a restaurant and there was music playing in the background. Somebody asked who was singing and Thad said, "Bing Crosby." Are you sure? the questioner insisted. "Uh, yeah," my nephew said. "I was raised on White Christmas."
My sister and I, short of the singing and dancing portions, could perform the movie White Christmas on stage with no rehearsal required. We've probably seen the film a combined total of 200 times, figuring conservatively that we started watching it at age 10 and tuned in at least twice a year ever since. For anybody who has recently emerged from fifty-seven years of incarceration with no television or movie privileges, White Christmas (released in 1954) is the story of four people who travel from Florida to Vermont in search of snow, only upon arrival in New England to find the weather isn't cooperating (there are other plot points, like love and war and kind-hearted soldiers who bring a special gift to an old general, that I won't go into here). In the final scene the snow starts to fall, and the movie ends with a gleaming, tinsel-laden tree, a rural snow scene complete with horse-drawn sleigh, and a bunch of people dressed up in red and white velvet outfits singing and toasting and generally appearing to be having a fabulous time. As bossy family matriarchs, my sister and I subjected her children to The White Christmas Movie Event each twelfth month until they were old enough to flee the house. Pat and I have performed the song "Sisters" every year, either alone or in front of relatives (and once on videotape). We have dissected the film to oblivion, and annually point out editing mistakes and the fact that Vera Ellen, one of the "sisters," is impossibly skinny and wears turtleneck-only clothing, even in bed (she turned out to be anorexic). Our knowledge of this movie is extreme; perhaps, some might say, pathological. We are -- not to put too find a point on it -- White Christmas People.
So thank you, Thad. You have clarified for me, in relating a 30-second restaurant conversation, why I wake up every morning the week before Christmas and peer out the window, hands clasped, begging for snow; why I want to slap the local weatherman when he chirps, as he has this week, "sunny, with temperatures above normal!" I want a horse-drawn sleigh to shuusssh by the house. I want to be at an inn in Vermont with soldiers and dancers. I want a tinsel-laden Christmas tree with a blizzard in the background, and I want Bing Crosby crooning in my living room. Good grief. I am a slobbering product of Hollywood. And you know what? I don't care!
I suspect I'm going to be snow disappointed this year and that, barring a surprise storm, a white Christmas will not be. If the weatherman is right, my plan is to pull the shades on Christmas Eve, flip on the DVD player, and watch Bing and Rosemary and Danny and Vera cavort in Vermont in crimson clothes. I'll watch the general's grateful face when he sees the first flakes, knowing that his ski lodge has been saved from financial ruin, and I'll watch (and probably cry for the 200th time) as the soldiers march out and sing "we'll follow the old man wherever he wants to go, as long as he wants to go, opposite to the foe..." Most importantly, I'll watch the snowfall, even if the only magical white stuff I get this year is on the screen of my television. In fact, as my beloved family guests snooze in their beds upstairs, I may even watch it twice.