Dreaming of a green Christmas

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer December 14, 2012 08:49 am

Snow lovers don’t live on fiscal cliffs. I do. Have for a long time. That’s why I’m dreaming of a green Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.

Yes, I’m thinking we’ll all survive the end of the Mayan calendar, Dec. 21.

And yes, I grew up on the west, or wet, or as some of you would say, wrong side of Oregon. The place where Salem has been renamed Nike Town.

Winters, in childhood, were much longer, wetter and more mildew encrusted than they are today. We wet-siders used to walk nine miles to school, uphill both ways, in water up to our ankles.

We’d get 10 inches of rain at a time, never less, and weeks of weather so wet you had to wear a snorkle to breathe. The sun was a UFO. We didn’t tan. We rusted.

Kids in those days would stand beside the woodstove and get toasty, then run outside in the rain and become little steam engines that could.

On the west side, we’d judge Christmases not by whether they were green or white, but by where the ring around the collar — or flood line — landed on our creekside homes.

Our creeks liked to wander. They were the Dora the Explorer of water features. Beavers cruised by. Ducks too. 

Santa came not with a sled pulled by reindeer but by raindeer. 

The mall parking lot, where we’d go to do our Christmas shopping, was a lake. Fortunately, most cars in those days were barges. A small car in those days could haul Santa Claus and his reindeer, plus an elf or two, and got nine miles per gallon. Fortunately, gas cost 31 cents a gallon. First class stamps cost 5 cents, which we loved to wail vociferously about, and new homes cost $21,500

We’d watch Bob Hope perform for the troops on the only TV station that had reception, sort of, in our not-so-new home. The TV was black and white — and with enough ghosts to make us see double for days after the TV signed off for the night by playing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Hot Wheel dreams

I dreamed of getting Etch-A-Sketch and Hot Wheels for Christmas. Instead, I got Grinch socks and Frosty the Snowman underwear.

I had superpowers in those days. Anyone who prayed for rain or who gave me socks, I instantly vaporized.

Dad was a woodsman who worked outdoors in the elements, no matter how nasty. Mom was smarter and worked indoors as a homemaker. She stayed dry mending underwear and socks.

The one day a year we’d get snow, the kids would bundle up and turn Bald Hill into their own personal ski resort. There was “Crazy Jay,” who’d point his skis straight downhill and become a human blur. There was “Mad Mike,” who flew so high off the only bump on the hill it was amazing he ever reunited with his innertube. There was “Silly Sue,” who rode her homemade toboggan, a stove pipe attached to a sheet of plywood, and achieved speeds up to 1 mph.

In nine years out of 10, though, Christmas was green. We had 39 names for rain, most of them printable in a family newspaper. We had more names for rain than there are Santas at a typical mall.

Today, living on an Eastern Oregon cliff, I take winter as it comes, even when Mother Nature opens a can of whoop-’em. I love snow. Especially when Mount Fanny wears a coat that I can admire from afar while Christmas shopping for the perfect socks and underwear for that special someone.

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