We received a card last week from friends who have recently moved from Texas to the Midwest. They were both educators; one taught in the public school system, and the other at the university level. After 30 years of working in Stephenville and living on a 100-acre farm near Hico, they retired to a retirement community in Ohio. It is hard for me to understand, but they seemed excited about making the move.
They were enamored by their first midwestern autumn and shared how amazed they were by the dramatic change of the seasons in their village. They wrote of the beautiful “blanket of snow” on the ground outside as they were writing the message in the card, it was their first of the season. The image is a familiar one. The first snow fall in the Midwest is always an event. It didn’t seem to make any difference what time of day it occurred people would go outside. The children would be rounded up and allowed to go out and play in it. The scene is very similar to the many photos submitted to the Bulletin and posted on the newspaper’s Web site last year when Brownwood had a measurable snow event.
Gene Deason in his column in Friday’s Bulletin listed the 25 most popular (secular) songs of the season as determined by tracking of play on radio stations by Mediaguide. A solid quarter of the songs on the list had something to do with snow. From “Winter Wonderland” at number one through “Frosty the Snowman” at number 16, the snow theme seems to set the scene for our collective vision of the season. The image is carried out visually through the wealth of Christmas greeting cards with snow themes. I remember my mother used to sell Christmas cards in our neighborhood to make extra money for the holidays. I liked to look through her sample books that she had around the house. There were a large assortment of cards with cardinals in snow covered trees or horse drawn sleighs carving their way through the snow in a meadow.
When my wife and I were first married, I used to wait to begin my Christmas shopping until there was snow, preferably falling. Some years that would be a rather late start. The snow falling on the sidewalks in front of the stores helped get me in the mood. To my wife, it meant she would be getting something everyone else had picked over and not purchased. I learned to look in other areas for my source of Christmas motivation. Perhaps an even more powerful Christmas image for me is the candlelight Christmas Eve church services of my youth. It was the custom each year in our church for the concluding song to be Silent Night. The lights in the sanctuary were slowly turned down low and while this was occurring the congregation slowly made their way to light a small candle. They left the church with their little candles burning and on a still night one could see the little lights for a couple of blocks in the neighborhood.
Our Ohio friends’ time in Texas corresponds almost exactly to our own in the Lone Star State. I can’t help but wonder if the enthusiasm they have for the first snowfall will carry through to the last one of the season. As I recall, most years that will not come until late March or early April. By that time thoughts of Christmas have long since faded. One is tired of slugging around in multiple layers of clothing planning trips to the market around the weather report and once again dragging the snow shovel out of the garage to clear a path to the house. It was great hearing from them and I sincerely wish them well. However, I prefer to let Johnny Mathis help me conjure up an image of the snow.
Robert Brincefield is publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.