Running to Christmas

Christmas is coming. At least that is what the calendar says, a notion backed up by the endless feel-good ads the season generates. The few stores I have been in also have done their best to engender some sort of Christmas spirit, even if the incongruity of a giant plastic snow globe depicting some snowy scene in the middle of a warm store is as lost on those responsible for its positioning as it is on the people who pass it by, not really seeing it.

Images of Christmas pass before my eyes on an early morning run. Many of the houses I pass still have their outside lights on and they light my way in the early morning twilight. Silver trees blazing with white lights, candy canes, reindeer, sleighs on the lawns and cascading icicle lights which festoon the houses along with the obligatory inflatable Santas and snow men and, of course, the snow globes. All of it, especially the snow globes, look out of place on the green lawns. There is not the slightest hint snow and, with temperatures occasionally reaching 70, there is little likelihood that this will change in the immediate future. I run in shorts and a light jacket, the latter to ward off the early morning chill. The thermometer may read 48, but the air still has a bite until one gets warmed up.

The decorations always evoke memories of earlier Christmases, when, if memory serves, the temperatures were lower and snow, if not present, had at least made an appearance. In rural northern Indiana, snow was a fact by Thanksgiving and at least one Christmas was snowed out by a blizzard and families had to scramble to adapt. Many presents that Santa was to bring were delayed for a day or two, when the roads were again passable. Living in Maryland, one realizes that, while an early snow is possible, warmer weather will almost always intervene. There have been exceptions, but for the most part, Christmases in Maryland are green.

There was hope for snow earlier in the month when a raw, cold and windy day kept this runner indoors. Brownish-gray clouds scudded across the sky. Snow clouds. Yet the clouds were too sparse and the likelihood that any snow those clouds might shed would reach the ground was small. Still, the occasional drop of water on the windshield as we drove along suggested precipitation of a sort; the chance of a few snow flakes were being carried by the wind. In a parking lot a short time later, enough flurries made it to the ground level to constitute what might be called a snow shower. Although the flakes evaporated almost as soon as they appeared, they were enough to cause small child to run ahead of her mother, arms raised to the sky, giggling “look mommy, snow.”

This event hardly constituted the first snowfall of the season; those who were indoors at the time would surely have missed it and not everyone hurrying on their way against the cold remarked the event either. The region still awaits the arrival of the first winter’s snow.

It is exciting, that first snow, and it seems that everyone will stop to enjoy its progression. Faces light up with smiles and, for a time, it doesn’t seem cold at all. As it piles up slowly on cars and fence rails, people scoop it up and toss it at each other as smiles give way to laughter. No one is grumpy during a first snow. That comes later as people push the days for an early spring. Snow is expected for Christmas and many consider it a right of the season.

Many of the decorations begin to go dark as the sun tops the horizon and timers optical and mechanical dutifully shut things down until the coming night. The decorations become ordinary by the light of day, ugly almost. The illusion of Christmas they peddle in the darkness is dispelled with first light. Vampire-like, they recede into the background and my eyes turn downward to scan the street for the stray bit of change dropped by a careless school child or drawn out from the pocket along with the car keys and lost in the darkness. I am not above stooping for a stray penny, like that one right there.

Merry Christmas!