(No, not a lo-cal Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those.)
As a native Chicagoan living in Southern California for over 11 years now, I can say that I will never get used to celebrating Christmas in a warm climate. To me, Christmas as a child always meant cold weather—often with snow—and all that went with it: snow pants and jacket, mittens, boots, scarf, hat, the whole deal. Going out in the cold and snow was a matter of fact—how else would we get to school, to work, to the liquor store? (Did anyone else get dragged to a true liquor store—not a convenience store with a fancy name—as a child? It’s a kid’s nightmare: glass everywhere, you can’t touch anything, and if you turn around too fast—especially in a puffy down coat with a hood—you are likely to cost your parents at least the equivalent of two Coleco games. Anyone?)
Anyway, Christmas meant winter. It meant cold. It meant dragging a Christmas tree through a snow-covered parking-lot-turned-tree-lot to your car, tying it on with twine, and skidding through icy streets praying it wouldn’t fly off and under the giant wheels of a snow plow or salt truck.
But this is not what Christmas means to my sons.
Both of my boys were born here in Southern California and have lived here since. My younger son, age 21 months, has never even seen snow, let alone felt a temperature below 55 degrees. My 3-year-old is hardcore for a California boy: he’s been to the Midwest not once but TWICE during winter and so has participated in such exotic native activities as building snowmen, riding sleds, and having your boogers freeze the minute you walk out the door. And still he said to me the other day, as he pulled on a light hoodie for a walk to look at Christmas lights, “Mommy, I know what winter is! Winter is when it gets chilly almost every day!”
Chilly? CHILLY? In Chicago, chilly is an over-air-conditioned movie theater on a summer day! It’s the 8th inning at Wrigley when your nosebleed seats end up in shadow! It’s most of MAY and sometimes even early JUNE! It still boggles my mind that my very own children think it’s normal that Christmas decorations and blooming rose bushes go together. That licking metal poles at the park is just gross—not an activity that results in a trip to the ER with a bleeding tongue. That even in the deepest darkest days of winter—when the temperature reaches a horrifying low of 60 degrees—one can walk to the local ice cream shop and enjoy a cold treat outside without losing a finger to hypothermia.
And yet, how great is it that in two days, when the post-present-opening-orgy torpor of Christmas Afternoon sets in, I will be able to send my boys (in their hoodies), off to the park with their father and paternal grandparents for an hour or two of outdoor play? How GREAT is it that I will then lay on the couch, in the “chilly” quiet of a child-free house, dozing comfortably as a chorus of possessed battery-operated toys chirp and sing to no one? How great is that?
I admit, it’s pretty great. But it’s not great enough to keep me from missing the Midwest and the Christmases of my childhood.