I kept checking, but there was nothing to see outside our classroom windows, except low, heavy clouds and gray tree tops all morning. Like the rest of the seventh graders in the room, I was thinking, “Surely, it should snow soon! It’s already the end of November!” During noon recess the wind was bitterly cold. Despite wearing mittens, my hands froze. When the bell rang for my class to troop back inside, I felt relieved.
At first, I was glad to be back inside. But then Sister Wilhelmina started the afternoon by having the class take out their arithmetic books. I hated numbers. Instead of looking out of the windows, I began to watch the classroom clock. To my dismay, the minute hand slowed to the speed of an hour hand. Time crept past as slowly as a snail climbing a bean stalk after eating a huge meal. After enough time for the snail to complete a full cycle of evolution, the class finally ended.
While putting my arithmetic book away, I noticed the class was whispering louder than usual. Glancing around, I discovered snowflakes were fluttering past the windows. Sister Wilhelmina said with resignation, “Now that the snow has started, no one will be able to concentrate on school work! That’s okay. Our Christmas play is in three weeks, so let’s begin practicing the songs in the program.”
Sally, one of my musically gifted classmates sat at the old upright to play ‘Jingle Bells’. Sister herded the rest of the class into a semi-circle around the piano. The bright overhead lights cheered my soul. The room felt warm and cozy. We enthusiastically belted out the song, loudly, but not very skillfully. Outside, snowflakes continued to flutter to the ground, turning the playground ghostly white.
I loved winter’s first snow. Snowflakes heralded the time of year when there was so much to look forward to; Thanksgiving, Saint Nicholas, Christmas, my birthday, New Years, but most of all, a two-week break from school! Woven throughout this time, like fancy ribbon on a gift, were the endearing strains of beloved Christmas and winter songs.
As an adult, I regard Christmas and winter songs as something beautiful and beloved, but not to be worn out. If they are sung every month of the year, they stop being special. When my children arrived and grew old enough to sing, I worried that they would want to sing them all year long.
I made a rule; the only time we could sing snow or Christmas songs was in December and January. Other than that, I decreed a special dispensation for any day of the year in which snow falls from the sky.
My children’s self-control amazed me. I was the one who had the hardest time sticking to the rule. During their school years, whenever we had snow falling before December, I’d brightly carol, “We can sing Christmas songs today!!” My children are amazingly respectful people. They didn’t snort with annoyance or disrespect, not even during their teenage years!
Christmas songs are played overhead in department stores earlier and earlier every year. This year while shopping more than a month before Halloween, I heard “Silver Bells” playing. I checked, and surely enough, workers were already setting up artificial Christmas trees in a special display area.
I feel sorry for retail workers. All day long they have to listen to the same songs over and over. My sister worked in a department store for several years. She said that by Christmas, she hated the songs. How sad!
The sky is gray as I write. A bitterly cold wind is blowing. The leafless trees in my yard are gray and appear dead. I’m wrapped in an electric blanket and drinking a hot cup of tea at my brightly lit desk. I’m comfortable, but since it isn’t December yet, I’m watching the sky and hoping for snow.