The last time I saw snow on Christmas was a Christmas morning in 1966 or 1967 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Underneath the tree that morning was a purple bike with a banana seat and high handlebars. As soon as the presents were opened, I took it outside in the cold, pedaling down the asphalt, past my friend Bobby's house, wondering for a moment what he had that morning under his tree. I felt the first snowflakes, my father watching me cruise down the street on that deliciously cool Spyder 5-speed bike from Sears. It was a perfect Christmas. I haven't felt snow on Christmas in the nearly 40 years since then. And I've never had a bike quite like that bike.
I realize now what tumultuous times those must have been for my parents. It was a time of draft dodgers, hippies, and race riots, and we had our fair share of all those in our city. Coming home from Wednesday night prayer meeting at church, a regular of churches then, we were stopped at a checkpoint by the police. A curfew had been imposed at 9:00 because of rioting near A&T University. I had little understanding of that then. Shutting down the city at 9:00 was a drastic thing even then before the advent of 24-7 shopping and eating, even before people really did much shopping at all after 6:00. People were home for the evening. Shops were closed. And here the police were on the streets and people were told to go home and stay off the streets. On TV we heard sober reports of crowds throwing bottles and rocks, angry men shouting, and I'm sure my parents wondered what the world was coming to. Really, I was clueless, my world limited to the a small orbit around my parents, my neighborhood, and my school.
We took my sister and her friend to school one morning, junior high school, and I remember she was bragging about her go-go boots, white Nancy Sinatra boots ("these boots are made for walking,/ and that's just what they'll do,/ One of these days these boots are gonna/ walk right over you.") My sisters were weird and often spiteful and mostly useless to me then. I was an only boy. On account of that, I most often did as I pleased and was allowed to. It's a wonder I survived childhood and teenage years.
But back to Christmas. . . I remember lying awake then, hearing my parents talk around black coffee at the kitchen table just outside my room, those comforting murmurs and small laughs. I was willing myself awake, trying to wait and see if I heard reindeer on the roof, watching the patterns of car headlights on the walls as cars passed on the street outside. Later, much later I thought, I heard noises in the basement, things being moved about. One Christmas I even thought I heard the hooves of reindeer on the roof. I was too afraid to go and look, afraid it wouldn't be real.
I loved that snow the best, though. A purple Spyder five speed banana seat high handlebar bike in the snow. That's hard to beat for a ten year old.