‘Ding-Dong Merrily on High’ (With Harpsichord!)

The computer stopped working for a while this morning: or rather, WordPress stopped working. I was pleased to get it back just now.

Now don’t worry, I’m not trying to win my own Christmas carol contest. I’m posting this because a) I love the harpsichord, b) I love this carol, c) I love the snow, and d) I’ve just read a fantastic essay by Martin Selbrede on “The Victory of Truth,” and I can hardly wait to share it with you. But first I’ve got to clear the snow off our cars, and that’ll give me some time to think about what I want to say.

Meanwhile, let’s make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Memory Lane: A Whopper of a Snow Day

Child walking through deep snow Stock Photo - Alamy

I may have told this story once before; but what with today’s white sky and cold temperature, I think I’ll tell it again.

Rewind to 1966. It’s snowing like crazy when we get up in the morning, but they haven’t shut the schools and off we had to go–my brother, our friend Gary from next door, and me. Off to the bus stop, with the snow coming down like gangbusters. And after waiting half an hour, it became obvious to us that the bus wasn’t running that day.

“Well, let’s walk!” I said. Some two miles to our high school, and now it was snowing even more heavily. But we were young, we liked the challenge–and in just an hour and a half, we made it to the school.

Hardly anyone was there: maybe a quarter of the staff and a few dozen of the student body. My home room was Mrs. Wilcox’s chemistry lab, one of the few classrooms that was open. Mrs. Wilcox had put up a dart board for the half a dozen students who were there. That was a treat! We played darts while Mrs. Wilcox read a novel.

By and by the principal came in and sent everybody home. The snow was deeper now, but we didn’t mind. Up to our knees and still coming down. Two hours to get home. And after lunch we went back out again, all the way down to Tommy’s Pond to help other kids clear the snow off the pond for ice skating–which was what we and a lot of other townspeople did that evening.

It sort of went without saying that school would be closed the next day, too. So we went to the Y, which was mysteriously open–I guess so Mr. Williams could smoke his pipe in peace–and shot pool for a while in the adults’ lounge; and then back to Gary’s basement for a game of cards.

What fun that was, all of it! My father went ice-skating that night: couldn’t get the car out, our dead-end street was among the last to be plowed. Lots and lots of sledding at the pond, with a fire in a metal drum so you could warm your hands.

I wonder if they have snow days in Heaven. Betcha they do.

Memory Lane: It Should’ve Been a Snow Day

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We lived some two miles from our high school, and to get there, we usually took the Public Service bus. Or walked.

In those days, they were rather averse to closing the school on account of snow. So one day, as it snowed rather heavily, my brother and I, and our friend Gary, found ourselves standing almost knee-deep in snow, waiting for the bus. Which never came. So we had to walk, because there had been no official school closing.

The home room bell used to ring at 7:18 a.m. We got there at around 10:30, and found the school virtually deserted. The few students who had made it there now gathered in Mrs. Wilcox’s chemistry lab, where she had a dart board. Maybe 5% of the student body made it to school that day, and maybe a dozen of the teachers. By and by the principal stopped in and told us we might as well go home. It didn’t occur to him to recommend any particular way of accomplishing that.

So we walked: another two miles in snow that was now hip-deep. I’m afraid we loved every minute of it. We finally got back home around supper-time. And the next day it was sleeping late, soup for breakfast, and sleds and snow-men instead of algebra and English grammar. There are few times in life when you come out that far ahead on the deal!

Memory Lane: A Sunday at the Movies

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Here it is, Sunday, and raining cats and dogs. It reminds me of a certain Sunday way back when, when it was snowing like crazy instead of raining–and my father had promised to take us to the movies to see Journey to the Center of the Earth at the good old Forum Theater. After Sunday school and Sunday dinner, of course.

But when we got there, the line stretched literally around the block, no way we were getting in. My disappointment was inexpressible. But Daddy meant to keep his promise, so he took us back for the next showing and this time we got in.

Oh, boy–dinosaurs! Well, iguanas done up as Dimetrodons: but it was good enough for me. And Pat Boone merrily singing among the giant mushrooms…

As icing on the cake, it kept snowing and there was no school the next day. Somehow sledding down the hill at Tommy’s Pond had it all over sitting in class and trying to do math problems.

Some Things I Shouldn’t Like

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We all have our guilty little secrets, and we have all heard that confession is good for the soul. Today I’ll put that to the test.

There are certain things I absolutely shouldn’t like, there must be something wrong with me, how can I live with the shame of it, etc. “Ah! And what are those things?” I don’t hear you ask. Here I will fess up to three of them, and let the chips fall where they may.

1950s horror movies featuring giant insects and crustaceans continue to delight me. What could be finer, on a summer afternoon, than slipping into the air-conditioned darkness of the old Forum Theater to watch army men vainly try to stave off the attacks of giant bugs? If only we had some of those bugs for the Democrat National Convention…

The Three Stooges: thanks to Youtube, I can get the Three Stooges anytime I want–oh, huzzah! You may wonder why the Three Stooges wrecking someone’s house as they try to install a light bulb is funny, but colleges and Congress wrecking America is not. Thing is, when the Stooges are over, they’re over–and no harm has been done to anything or anyone. We don’t have to live with the consequences of the Three Stooges’ actions. And what a relief that is!

Finally, snow. Everybody else crabs and cranks on those rare occasions when it snows (rare around here, I mean: I don’t live in Buffalo). I love to watch it come down and cover up the mud; and for a little while, the neighborhood is quiet. Snow is the only thing, short of the end of the world, that can take away the constant roar of traffic. Engine noise is 24/7 in these parts; but a respectable snowfall can shut it down for 20 minutes or so. And then there is the evergreen memory of not having to go to school that day because it’s snowed. Yes, I admit it: I’d rather go sledding or ice-skating, or build snowmen or snow forts, than sit in a classroom “learning” something which I’ve totally forgotten by now.

As for the question of how I can live with the shame… well, as best I can, I guess.

Memory Lane: Venus Paradise Colored Pencil Set

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So there you were, expecting a real wowser of a snowstorm that would have kept the schools closed on Monday and led to a glorious day of sledding and snowball fights–but all it did was rain. What to do with your Sunday afternoon?

I loved these Venus Paradise pencil sets. Each set came with a raft of colored pencils and a bunch of pictures to color by number–always with a wonderful result, if you didn’t make careless mistakes. The pictures we got back then were complicated and it took a couple of hours to color one in. But it was worth it!

I don’t think these are available anymore, and I wonder if kids today would have the patience to enjoy them. After all, it’s not electronic. And no mayhem. Just really nice pictures of ducks flying over the cattails in a marsh, or a scenic covered bridge on a sunny day in the fall–stuff like that. All you needed was a pencil sharpener, and a bit of peace and quiet. There are still some similar toys around, but once you fell in love with Venus Paradise, nothing else would do.

I’ve still got some of the pencils, but the pictures are, alas, long gone.

Oh, No! A Snowstorm’s Coming!

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We have a “winter storm” in our forecast this weekend, and my town is freaking out over it. The mayor made his traditional state of emergency robo-call, urging residents not to park on the street. If you don’t have a driveway, he added, park in the municipal pool parking lot, a mere two miles from this neighborhood.

I’ve lived here all my life, and not once have I seen the town get snowed in. Even after the rare storm that drops two or three feet of snow on us, the streets are clear and everything’s open again a day later. Nevertheless, mobs of terrified residents flock to the supermarket to stock up on milk, bread, and batteries: they’re ready to sit out a week’s confinement to their homes. I can’t believe people in other states are quite as silly about snowstorms as my fellow Jerseyans.

What usually happens is there’s hardly any snow accumulation at all. I remember one Sunday, some years ago, when the media went into a full-scale hoot-and-holler about “the mother of all blizzards” on its way to bury us alive. Mayors, businessmen, and school boards acted on Sunday to declare towns, stores, public offices, and schools closed the next day. But Monday came and went without a single snowflake falling, and people got rather cheesed off about it. Threats of lawsuits abounded, but none of them came to anything: the weathermen had just been wrong, that’s all.

So I don’t expect this weekend’s weather prophecies to amount to much; but I’ll let you know if they do.

Our First Snow

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I realize I don’t have a lot of company in this, unless there are more 10-year-olds reading this blog than I would ever dare hope. But today, for the first time this season, it’s snowing–and that makes me happy! In fact, as soon as I finish this post, I’m going to go outside and smoke a cigar while I stand in the snow and watch it coming down.

Well, of course I feel differently when I have to shovel it! But that comes later. I’m loving the “now” part. I can’t help it. Maybe it goes back to my childhood: if it snowed enough, no school! Few things in life are better than no school. Besides, it’s pretty! A lot of God’s stuff is pretty, and I like it.

Whoo-Hoo, It’s Snowing!

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So yesterday it was almost 60 degrees, and today it’s in the 20s and snowing like mad: welcome to February. And oh, that wind!

I’ve just finished clearing our cars so we can use them tomorrow. It’s funny–no matter how old I get, I’ll never forget the unexpected joy of waking up on a snowy morning to learn that there’ll be no school today! How can I not love snow? Sledding, snowball fights, snowmen and snow-forts–who in his right mind would rather be sitting in a classroom?

And now, I think, it’s time for a cigar…

Memory Lane: A Snow Day

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Nothing ever gave me more pleasure than waking up and finding out that school was closed that day because of snow.

I remember one snow day in particular. Oatmeal for breakfast, then off to my friend Jimmy’s house. To get there, I had to climb a fence and cross the high school football field. That turned out to be not so easy: the snow was up over my knees. It was very cold that morning, and before I plodded halfway across the field, it started to snow again. I began to have hopes that tomorrow might be school-less, too.

Well, I made it across the field, climbed another fence, and in another minute or two was warming up in Jimmy’s living room, with my galoshes and shoes left by the heating vent. We decided not to go out for a while, but to watch TV instead: and what we saw was a movie, The Charge of the Light Brigade, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland. Jimmy’s mother made us hot cocoa–just the ticket!–and sandwiches for lunch. So fortified, we went out with our sleds and took them down to Tommy’s Pond for some excitement on the slopes.

I’ve always remembered that day very vividly. A few years ago I bought The Charge of the Light Brigade for my own movie collection, to be played on heavy snow days.  But I haven’t been able to find a sled for someone my size, and the slopes of Tommy’s Pond don’t seem anywhere near as long and steep as they once were. Ah, well–we ain’t none of us as long and steep as once we were.