Once upon a time, on the day of the first snow of every winter, no matter how thin a layer of snow that was on the ground, my mum would break out the enormous purple winter jacket that once put on, would engulf me, so that I looked--and really, felt--like a large ball of fluff--due to the feathers that kept flying out of the seams.
In addition, there would be the incredible brightly colored snow pants that crinkled whenever I walked, the big clunky snow boots too large for me so that that they swallowed up my feet, and of course, there would always be the other necessary winter items--scarves that always froze to my mouth because I could not remember not to bite through the scratchy wool, the mittens that kept getting lost until my mother came up with the ingenious idea of sewing them both together by way of attaching them with a long red piece of yarn, and the hat, the horrid, horrid bright pink hat that always made me think of, well, ick.
So there I would be, all suited up, just waiting for my mother to finish helping my little sister dress, and then getting dressed herself before I would tear out of the house and hurl myself into the first patch of snow that I could see, and immediately begin rolling in it, and throwing it up into the air to see it glisten in the sunlight.
Then, whenever my mother would set up the Christmas tree and the decorations, I would always be there, fighting with my sister to have the privilege of setting up the tree, and help stringing it with the pretty multicolored lights--mainly around the bottom, since we were both a little on the short side, the pieces of tinsel that had once been garlands in their golden years before we had ever touched them, the shiny Christmas ornaments that, again, we placed around only the bottom and middle of the tree, which our mother discreetly redid after we had scampered away to "decorate" the staircase. I remember Christmas being something, that, quite literally, was magical to me... when I believed that Santa Claus would be there to fill up my stocking each and every year, even though it never would be once I woke up. I remember waking up as early as six in the morning--early for a child, extremely early for a sleep-deprived teenager--and bouncing impatiently on my bed once I was strictly forbidden to go to the tree by one or the other of my sleep-rumpled parents.
It snowed last night... snowed enough to allow a layer of snow to stay on the ground... I do believe it's still there in fact, and that it did not quite melt away in the coming of the afternoon sun. And, I thought it was pretty, but... it wasn't some magical fairy dust that the snow fairies showered down upon us, it was... well, it was just snow. The stuff that kind of just sits there white and cold and glittering sharply, the stuff that turned itself into ice to make me slip and flounder like an ice-skater without skates, and the stuff that turns brown and slushy the moment a car wheel touches it, and grinds it down beneath its round rubber heel.
The same thing will happen once Christmas Day comes... like it has for several years now. I won't go running down to the tree with my sister to stare with wide eyes at the magic of the Christmas tree. I won't go zooming to my mum and dad and wake them up with a flurry of kisses and hugs and attempt to get them to wake up and come down and share this magic with me. I won't look at each and every box, each bigger than the last, each beautifully wrapped in colored paper and topped with a bow of some startling color that none of my stubby pencil crayons could ever match, as if it were something precious.
I won't say I've stopped caring... nothing could make me stop that. But I can't care like I used to. Somehow that magic of mine that I dreamt up when I was a child vanished while I wasn't looking, and all I see when I walk down the stairs and through the dining room, is a hunk of furry green plastic topped with ornaments bought on boxing day, cracked porcelain angels, and little lights so bright they hurt my eyes. All I can feel now, is a sort of vague detachment. Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps I have stopped caring, and I simply can't see it.
My sister can still see the magic. I know it, every time I see her watching the play of light on the tree, and each time she reverently touches a glass ornament hanging delicately off of a tree branch. I can see it, every time she runs out into the snow and leaps into the first rift of snow she sees and tosses it in the air to see it fall, glittering, all around her, sometimes in her hair, so that she feels like the Ice Princess Barbie, with glitter showering her hair.
I'm still trying to figure out if this is what happens to all people. I don't think so... I see other people and they're doing much the same thing, setting up the Christmas tree a month in advance, putting on the CD of Christmas carols that none of us know, stringing up the lights around the staircase, the puffs of cottony snow on the stone mantel... like my mother. But somehow, despite all that, I can see there's no magic for her.
And I'm still trying to figure out if I'm so incredibly stupid for believing that Christmas might be some magical time in the year that I could be happy. Because now, I remember more poignantly than ever, the way my father threatens me with the loss of all my Christmas presents if I didn't do what he said, how often I was in tears only five minutes before the guests came for our Christmas party. How my mother screamed at me to clean my room because there were people coming, and if I didn't, there would be the inevitable destruction of all my treasures.
Maybe that was the beginning. So maybe I'm the only one foolish enough to believe that if I was good enough, Santa might come and sweep away all the bad stuff in the world, and I would be happy. I was materialistic then... still am now, in fact. Maybe it was only then that I could actually believe that all those nice things I received Christmas morning, would make me happy enough to last the entire year.
I guess I only figured it out a few years ago. They didn't.