“Christmas” by Peter James

The large, fluffy, white flakes of snow drift lazily toward the ground. My mind is clear and free from thoughts of bills or even if I will have enough money to buy groceries. I am, for the moment at least, transfixed by numerous snow flakes slowly floating around me in the almost still, cold air. Without a breeze it seems quieter than it should be, as if the sudden appearance of the snow has muffled all man-made noise.

     I remember my older brothers working so hard and with great skill to create the perfect toboggan run on the hill behind our house. I was too small to ride the run alone but the speed and blur of the trees and people flashing by as we raced down the hill was thrilling. Many of the neighborhood kids of various ages would join us on that slick, high speed run.

     And then a few years older, tromping through the knee deep snow following my oldest brother who carried the axe. He would direct my attention to this or that snow laden tree and ask my opinion. With all the seriousness and formality due this sacred privilege I would pronounce judgment on each tree he indicated. Once I had chosen THE tree of the whole forest that was to be our Christmas tree he would begin to swing the axe. The sharp crack of the steel axe-head biting into the bark and wood beneath it echoed in the quiet surroundings. A small avalanche of snow cascaded off the branches at the impact of each swing. We would each grab a branch near the large end of the downed tree and drag it through the snow back to where the car was parked and attach it with ropes to the roof. Back at home I would hold the tree upright while he tied strong, thick string around it’s middle and fixed the ends to the wall with nails. Once the pine needles were swept from the floor it was done. We had our Christmas tree.

     In our neighborhood, the boys were always throwing something at each other. Small rocks in the good seasons and snowballs in the winter. I tended to catch the rounded balls of snow with my face but could hit my mark when throwing them too, so it was fine. When the snow was freshly fallen it was necessary to create an army of snow angels. Each yard had a snow bank or mound of shoveled snow that was riddled with tunnels. In quieter, more reflective moments I would just stick out my tongue and let a flake land on it to feel the momentary cold of it before it immediately melted.

     Memories of my teens and into my twenties of spending each Christmas Eve at one brother’s house helping to decorate his family tree come to mind. I was officially Santa Claus and the snacks left out for the jolly gent were my responsibility to consume. I would then drive to my oldest brother’s house to spend Christmas Day with him and his children.

     Looking around I see the snow has stopped falling. It was just a flurry. I can see my breath in the cold, fresh air and sniff back a runny nose. Turning up my collar I walk slowly and heavily down the sidewalk. The thought of how my family might be spending their Christmases crosses my mind but I have no real idea of course. Schizophrenia can and does separate you from family. It has been many years since I even received a phone call from any of them on Christmas day. My heart is not in the holiday anymore. For me it has become another day, like too many others of mine, spent alone.

                                                                                                              

Peter James

 

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