We’re having a wild and snowy winter in Upstate NY this year, and it stands in sharp contrast to my previous 26 winters in Dallas, TX. With ceramic bumps as lane dividers on TX highways, plows are not allowed, nor is there much need, since most years, Dallas might get a couple of days of the white stuff. Salt and snow are used sparingly, so consequently, an inch of snow can shut down schools and stores for a day.
It takes subzero temps and many feet of snow to do the same here in Lake Effect Land, where the winds coming off the open waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario pick up moisture that is dumped as several feet of snow in an hour. And such storms can last for several days! It’s beautiful, but sometimes harrowing. http://s.newyorkupstate.com/sojU4Gd
There is also a phenomena that I believe results from the lack of snow in parts of TX, and that is an overabundance of holiday lights. We do string up lights in NY, but many nights they are covered in snow, trying to twinkle beneath heaps of icy snowdrifts. To make up for the lack of a wintry wonderland, Texans have created a festival of lights that can be seen from airplanes thousands of feet in the air. And the newest decorating rage for Christmas– blow-up lawn ornaments, or “inflatables,” as I’ve seen them advertised, has reached ridiculous proportions. In one neighborhood, a lawn might have as many as 15 figurines glowing like bulbs all night, held in shape by generators puttering away in the background. I’ve seen teddy bear ferris wheels in snow globe bubbles, Dr. Seuss’s Grinch standing taller than the live oaks, and inflatable reindeer that looked like they could swallow a round bale of hay in one gulp. Such inflatables are sometimes seen in NY, but here, if they are not anchored down like dirigibles on a dock, the winds could easily set them aloft for miles. I envision a Macy’s Day Parade gone amuck with one lake effect snow blast.
The most memorable Christmas inflatable I ever encountered was in my last year in the Lone Star State. I was taking a morning walk through a friend’s neighborhood and saw a North Pole display next to an entire Nativity scene deflating right before my eyes. I couldn’t fathom setting Santa down next to the Wise Men, let alone wanting to replace a wooden stable with a balloon barn, but there it was. A poem began banging around in my head, and was finished by the time I arrived home:
THE INFLATABLE BABY JESUS
Santa to the left of him,
Snowman to the right.
Little Baby Jesus
Has made it through the night.
But with the dawning of the day,
And the Texas winter sun,
This cheery scene grows bleary,
As Phoebus makes his run.
Joseph’s knees are buckled,
And Mary’s in a heap.
The ox collapses to the ground;
So too the little sheep.
The snowman’s grin is grimacing
As he sinks into the grass.
The Wise Men fold into a pile,
And Santa’s on his ass.
Oh where is little Jimmy
Who’s supposed to check the pump,
Watch over this Nativity,
Give camel back his hump?
He’s been out hunting squirrels
With his brand new Christmas gun,
‘Til a stray cork popped the manger.
Baby Jesus is undone.
But a miracle shines down from the porch steps,
Like the star over Bethlehem–
It’s Dad and a flashlight and duct tape.
All’s well. Merry Christmas. Amen.