Editor’s note: The writer recounts a Christmas memory in this piece.
The wind cuts briskly through the hair at the back of my neck as snowflakes swirl around the street lights lining either side of the pathway through the middle of the street, where my footsteps are being covered almost as quickly as I step out of them.
I worked late at the drugstore tonight. We always stay open on Christmas Eve, in case those last-minute shoppers come in for the bottle of perfume or a bracelet from the jewelry counter.
Of course, some people have to make a last-minute trip for medication from the pharmacy in the back of the store, but mostly they are procrastinators shopping for that gift that he, usually a man, has not had time to remember earlier.
After I got paid tonight, I also had to do some shopping. I found a figurine of a pink poodle dog that I know my mother will like. It has curls around its shoulder and a very pretty face for a dog.
I know almost everyone on this street and if it was any other night, I would not hesitate to walk into one or more of the houses on my way home to warm up for just a minute and maybe even play a hand of cards, but this is Christmas Eve. This is the night that you really want to be with family to see if you would be excited or disappointed by any presents you might receive.
On Christmas Eve family always meets at Granny’s house, two streets over from the street we live on.
Everyone in the family is expected to be there. No excuses are accepted by the matriarch of the family, who even though tiny carries a lot power over her children and grandchildren. No one argues with Granny. This is her big night of the year and only the uncle who lives out of state is allowed to not be in attendance.
We lived with Granny for several years following my parent’s divorce, so we are particularly close to her.
I need to step it up a little. If I don’t hurry, I will not be at Granny’s in time for supper. Not that there will be any place for me to sit down and eat, but the warmth of the kitchen and the overpowering odors of fried chicken, turkey and rolls seem to be floating on the night air, calling to me, urging me to hurry up.
The biting snow and stinging wind are not enough to quicken my steps, as well as my feet in slip-on shoes, which are quickly filling with the snow, which is at least five or six inches deep by this time.
There is absolutely no traffic, so I keep to the middle of the street instead of walking on the sidewalks, which are icy and slick from earlier foot traffic to and from town. At least the salt spread by trucks earlier in the day has melted the ice on the road and allowed safer footing as I trudge along, singing carols that I can remember.
My memory was never that good, so I make up words when I arrive at parts of the songs that I do not know. I always sing when I walk home after dark. It gives me courage and I always imagine other people living along the way sit up in their living rooms as I go by and say, “That must be that Thurman boy on his way home. Doesn’t he have a nice voice?”
Of course, I am known for singing. It is something that I am good at. I just wish that I had a lower voice. I am a sophomore and still sing soprano or alto. My most embarrassing moments come when I have to get up and sing in front of other kids my age. I sing solos at more than one church, and every year, I am one of the stars in our local piano recital, memorizing and singing a number of popular love songs that appeal to my music teacher and to the older women who come to the recitals to hear their grandchildren play a simple piece of music.
As I pass the rock wall by Aunt Ella’s, I know I am almost there. The snow is picking up in intensity and I can barely see to climb up the hill of Bell Street to Granny’s. I see the cars parked up and down either side of the road and the lights at all the windows casting a warmth onto the newly-fallen snow.
I can’t wait to take off my wet shoes and join the family around the kitchen table for my slice of the applesauce cake that Granny is famous for, slicing so thin that you can read the paper through it.
I opened the front door, jangling the blind that always clangs when anyone enters. A gust of warm, humid air, filled with aromas of food, envelops me.
Granny has on her good white apron, with the frills around the edges. The sounds of children playing, adults arguing politics, teens in a back room playing cards, and dishes being placed on the table let me know that this is where Christmas can be found.
Wayne Thurman is a retired school administrator and teacher. He’s a native of Anderson County. He and his wife, Kaye, live in Danville.