Green Christmas

Washingtonians like me have to cope with extremes in the weather. Whether it’s summer or winter, the weather is always extremely temperate.

So, for instance, every June it rains. If you live in Washington, you know this and you know how to quell the sense of violated rights when, this June and yet again, it rains. You tell yourself (and the members of the appropriate 12 Step group you’ve joined to help you cope with the weather) the following:

“Hi, I’m Mark”

“Hi Mark!”

“You know, it rains every June in Washington and I’m okay with that.”

“We’re okay with that too, Mark.”

In time you can grow to love such weather–the way Winston Smith came to love Big Brother in 1984.

But Out-of-Staters, people from California and other weaklings whose mental stability requires constant subsidies of sunshine and gladness are often not equipped to cope. Some rely on denial strategies for years such that every June it rains and every June, these sad wretches remark aloud (though really they are only struggling to convince themselves): “What an unusually rainy June we’re having!”

This can go on for years until they either face the Truth or move back to California.

But that’s not the half of it. Because just as often, we Washingtonians have to face the other brutal reality: we’ve only had snow for Christmas twelve times in the past century. Twelve times! That’s 88 times in the past 100 years when we’ve had to listen to “White Christmas”, get sparkly cards full of 19th Century scenes with sleighs jingling merrily through wintry forests, and watch movies where–after the family has come back together following the crisis that threatened to tear it apart and everybody has learned the True Meaning of Christmas™–the child looks out the window with eyes full of wonder and cries out, “Mom! Dad! Look! It’s snowing!” (“Family gathers round window and snuggles close together. Camera pulls back through window to remote aerial shot of cozy, light-filled country home nestled in the woods as snow falls from the night sky. Black out. Roll credits and swelling orchestral closing theme.”)

Yes, it can be a little tiring to endure that year after year and to be forced to remember year after year that you live in the town that gives you this sort of weather as well as the Seattle Mariners. It can seem a bit unfair.

And yet. I’m not going to complain too much. Why? Because I love where I live! It’s really that simple. Yeah, we don’t get the Lake Wobegon winters with tons of snow. Yeah, we don’t get the California heat or the Hawaiian gorgeousness. But man oh man, do Washingtonians live in a beautiful place! In the summer, especially July through September, there’s no place more wonderful on earth. No humidity, cool breezes, your choice of salt water or mountains within a hours drive of one another, Edenic places to hike and camp and ride bikes. Paradise.

And in winter, we have rain rather than impassible snow drifts, salt on the roads eating your car away, busted pipes, and all those weather reports from the East Coast we Washingtonians chuckle about each winter which use terms like “crippled”, “paralyzed”, “buried”, “icy grip” and “Big Freeze”.

Our Green Christmases here in Seattle mean that we can enjoy all the good stuff about Christmas without fretting about the lousy stuff. We still get the long cold dark winter nights, good for snuggling and smooching. We still get the hide-and-seek games with the little ones. We still get the excitement of the Advent Countdown. We still get to go see family and friends. We still get the glory of the Christmas Vigil Mass. We still get the glee of Christmas morning. Only, when the sun rises, odds are extremely good that it will be a golden crisp bright morning with frost on the evergreen tree and the bare branches of our mountain ash forming a delicate lace across our view of Mt Rainier through the back window. When the kids want to go out and play with the new automated radio-controlled gizmo from Aunt Mary, they don’t have to wait till April to do it. When we want to drive down to Olympia to see the family for the big Holiday hooptido, we just go. There are no travel advisories because hey! It’s Christmas, so there’s no snow!

I take this “look on the bright side” view of our Green Christmases because I figure we’ve got it pretty good. The first Christmas was celebrated under considerably more adverse conditions than ours. I don’t have to haul my wife somewhere on the back of a jackass because some bureaucratic ninny decided that the bean counters needed to count our particular noses just as my wife was coming to term with our first child. If we travel, I know we’ll have a roof over our heads when we reach journey’s end. And it will be better than a feed box in a cave.

That first Christmas was not at all what we’d call “Christmassy”. It wasn’t even green, much less white. It was just tough, if you judge it by the standard of Kodak Moments per hour. On the other hand, it was more Christmassy that any other Christmas, because here, not confusable with any of the trimmings, was what it was all about: a Christmas neither green nor white, but pink and perfect and wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And if you’re looking for Kodak Moments, it’s good to know where to put the focus.

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