Dreaming of a White Christmas

by Admin-Phmp

Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” – John Steinbeck


And so it came to pass that the first time I visited the United States happened during December. However, Americans were baffled why someone who grew up in a tropical country like the Philippines would come to the US for the first time during the coldest season of the year.

But it didn’t matter. What made the trip more exciting and memorable was experiencing my very first white Christmas. I had it all: winter, snow, and riding a snowmobile. To top it all, I had snowflakes falling from the sky on Christmas Day. However, that’s going ahead of the story.

It was already cold when I arrived in Manhattan (a very familiar place if you watch Woody Allen films). My trip from Manila then to Narita, Japan, was smooth, although I didn’t sleep during the entire flight. 

I stayed for almost a week in New York, where I had to write an in-depth paper on water and population with Don Hinrichsen, a noted environmental author. After a thorough discussion and writing some pages, I was bound for Minnesota, where my sister Elena and her husband, Daniel, and their two sons – Erik and Phil – were waiting for me. 

I had not seen Elena for almost a decade after she left the Philippines and so I was equally excited to see her. As the plane was about to touch down, I saw the place was covered with snow.

At the waiting area, I saw my sister first and then her husband and the two kids. Erik was still a baby when he was brought to the Philippines; now, he could talk and walk and has a little brother.

After getting all my luggage, Dan drove us to the Mall of America (which my sister used to tell me in her e-mails) located in Bloomington. When it opened in 1992, it was the largest shopping mall in total area and largest in total store vendors in the United States.

I had a total blast roaming around the wall. After all, this was the place where some of those Hollywood movies were filmed. To name a few: Jingle All The Way (1996), The Mighty Ducks (1994), and Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999).

Since it was already late at night, we decided to stay at the house of Dan’s sister. I had a cozy room where I slept. Everyone was still sleeping when I woke up. From my window, I could see the white snow covering the whole place. It was just like I was dreaming.

It was a good day when we left Minneapolis. Our destination was Hibbing (yes, the place where Bob Dylan, the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient, grew up), where my sister used to live. (They have now moved to Grand Rapids, the birthplace of singer-actress Judy Garland.)

As we drove, I saw everlasting trees standing tall and mighty along the highway and those waves of snow. I said a word of prayer, and the words of Isaiah 1:18 came to mind: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

I was tired when we arrived at my sister’s place as it was a long trip. So, I decided to sleep early. The following morning, I woke up ahead of everyone. I saw some mounds of snow outside. I wore a jacket and went outside. For the first time, I touched some snow. Then, I jumped several times as if I was a kid all over again. Finally, I allowed myself to hit the snow as if I was sleeping in my bed. It was more than in the Philippines.

When I went inside the house, I saw my nephew Erik. He was bewildered. “Uncle Henry, you must be crazy,” he told me. Before he could utter more words, I had to explain to him that it was my first time and that there was no snow in the Philippines. But being a little boy, he never understood it, I supposed.

For the next three weeks, I stayed with the Chase family. Every morning, I had to clean the garage pathway as snow always trickled at night. Twice, I almost slipped when those nasty snows turned into clear ice sheets.

I could have done ice fishing had I accepted the invitation of Dan’s friend. Remember the Hollywood movie Two Grumpy Old Men? It was shot in Minnesota, and both did their ice fishing near the place where my sister lived.

On Christmas Day, we went to visit Dan’s mother in Marcell. On our way, I could see the snowflakes falling from heaven. Literally and figuratively, I had my first White Christmas. It was as if I could hear Irving Berlin crooning his famous song: “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten, and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”

When we arrived, we rested for a while, and then we were ready to make a snowman. First, I made a ball of snow and then rolled it until we formed a huge circle. We did another one. The two kids helped when they saw me. Dan came later on when we had to construct it into a snowman. Elena brought a carrot (which served as the snowman’s nose), some twigs of trees (as arms and hands), and two big buttons (as eyes). I put a scarf around my neck, and we had a snowman.

That was my first White Christmas. Since then, I have had three more winter Christmas celebrations. But the first one was indeed the most memorable. 

For those who never experience winter and touch snow, I can say that it’s only good for picture taking. But experiencing it is another story. Coming from a tropical country like the Philippines, I still prefer summer over winter. Now, I understand why Americans were completely surprised when I told them it was my first time to be in the country and during winter time at that!

But as Edith Sitwell states, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home.”

Words of wisdom, these! 

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