I grew up in the Berkshires village of Williamsburg, Massachusetts, where spring is fragrant and verdant as the ground thaws, summer is balmy, fall is spectacular with the trees putting on their brief annual display, and winter is harsh but also filled with a cold beauty. I remember snowfalls haloing the streetlights and covering the countryside in softness and stillness. Sometimes a freezing rain would crust the snow thick enough to cautiously walk on and speed our improvised cardboard sliders down hillsides.
My father was a deacon in the golden-domed Congregational Church that still dominates the village center, and my mother taught Sunday school to the kids there, often using a changeable felt board with homemade multicolored cutouts for illustrations. Mom baked for the Wednesday evening church suppers that were some of the finest meals I’ve ever had, because all the women brought only their best recipes for casseroles and salads and meatloaf and cakes and pies. After each convivial feast there would be entertainment—a world-traveling adventurer presenting a 35mm slide show of exotic places, or a magician, or a black-and-white comedy movie.
When we knew there was going to be a full moon to bathe the brilliant snow and make the blue night clear as twilight, we’d spend a Saturday afternoon shoveling off a frozen pond deep in the woods—which bore here and there the tracks of woodland creatures—clearing a place up on a bank amid the laden evergreens, and setting a bonfire with downed wood gathered from the surrounding forest. That night we’d hike through the snow back to the pond, light the fire, and skate as the moon and stars swung overhead, taking breaks to drink hot cocoa from thermoses. We’d drizzle maple syrup onto the snow to turn it into a chewy candy that fueled us with carbs against the chill.
As Christmas drew near, volunteers would go out to village home yards and sing carols, their breath pluming the night air. Church members would drape the sanctuary balcony with garlands of aromatic balsam. On Christmas eve we’d attend the candlelight service and sing the old carols. On Christmas morning Mom would insist we attend services before returning home to share the tree and then enjoy her special dinner.
I hope you, too, have good memories of seasonal holidays past, and I wish you memory-making celebrations as 2019 draws to a close.
Have an exciting and rewarding New Year. Please join me here on occasion for more thoughts on life and writing.