In 1989 I decided I wanted to do something different from the usual Christmas card. I was smitten with Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. I loved the way they captured family members and individual details of their holidays, and I wanted to create something like that myself.
I delighted in writing up a piece I called “A Christmas Without Snow.” I didn’t realize at the time there was already a television movie by that name or I would have chosen a different title. I’d been studying writing for children through a correspondence course, and I’m sure that influenced my writing style.
I remember arriving very early at work one December Friday morning because we’d had snow and I hated to fight traffic on slick roads. In the solitary quiet, I keyed my Christmas piece into our department Mac. I’d bought some textured paper for the pages of the booklet I was making. I helped myself to use of the big copier in our wing, printing out double-sided pages I planned to collage and staple later at home.
Everyone who received one of my booklets seemed to enjoy the work. My greatest compliment may have come from my father, who actually sat down and read it—he rarely read anything but the sports page and his comprehension was poor—and quoted back to me sections he liked. He especially appreciated my description of his mother jumping up and down to fetch things during the holiday meal. Over the years he claimed he got “A Christmas Without Snow” out every year and re-read it. I think he was telling the truth. After he died, when we were clearing out his apartment, we found his copy of the booklet among his keepsakes.
I’d thought about revising the piece and publishing it as a blog post, but it never felt right. It lost something when I tried to update the style and tinker with some things I wouldn’t do quite that way now. I finally gave up. This year I’ve decided to simply scan the original booklet and post it here as a PDF. I know there is a typo or two, some grammatical things I’d prefer to fix, and I certainly would remove many of the exclamation points.
However, this was me writing 23 years ago, so I offer it as a double time capsule: of who I was in 1989 and of the Christmases I experienced in the mid-1960s. It’s a compilation of memories from holidays from about 1962 to 1967; certainly every Christmas wasn’t celebrated exactly the same way for various reasons. A family rift between my father’s mother and others on his side of the family ended the really big gatherings around 1966; and both sets of grandparents lived in different houses or flats at various times during the decade. The spirit of it all, though, is pretty accurate, I think, and shows a typical Christmas in the Cincinnati suburb of Oakley during the 1960s.
Hope you enjoy it—and Merry Christmas!