Prunewhip, Vermont winters in the 1950s looked
exactly like all the corny TV Christmas movies and
Hallmark cards you’ve ever seen. Some years we
would have an ice storm and every tree, down to
the smallest twig, would be coated with ice that
sparkled and shimmered in the obscure December
sun. Every garbage pail was covered with snow
and wore a white Santa cap. Each run down house
was blanketed in snow and had a magical fringe of
icicles around its roof. All mundane or shabby
realities were transformed into fairy tale sculptures
of ice and snow.
In mid-December school let out for two weeks and
kids played outside from dawn to dusk. Some days
there would be neighborhood snowball fights, one
side of the street against the other side. The
combatants met in a vacant lot where each army
had erected a fort of packed snow and stockpiled
snowballs behind it. When the cap gun sounded,
everyone started firing.
After the first freeze the fire department flooded a
sunken meadow and thatwas our skating rink. The
best game there was called Crack the Whip. All
the kids held hands, in order of height, and skated
in a circle, faster and faster and faster until the
tall kid at the top of the line shouted “All drop
hands!” If you were the shortest kid, you knew
you might land in a snow bank in the next county
and have to walk home, but that was the thrill of
Everyone looked forward to Christmas caroling
with their Brownie Scout troop or Sunday School
class. Not only did you get hot chocolate and
homemade cookies at every stop, but you also got
to see your school teachers in their living rooms
looking like real human beings.
Another big event was the annual School Christmas
pageant. There was no separation of Church and
State in Vermont at this time. We had a fair number
of Jewish kids, whose parents taught at the local college,
and they schemed and struggled right alongside their Christian
pals to try to get a role that involved wearing
a costume, as opposed to having to sit on the bleachers in
civilian clothes and sing “OLittle Town of Bethlehem”
along with the talentless herd of ordinary kids.
Few of us aspired to being cast as Mary or Joseph.
That would be like expecting the lead role in a Broadway play.
We all knew Joseph would be a star basketball player and
Mary would be the most slender, delicate, socially well-placed,
and beautiful brunette in school (blondes were automatically
banned from playing Mary). You could hope to be a
shepherd. a wise man or an angel. I had blonde curls,
so that made me a frontrunner in the Angel competition.
One year I actually got to float out on stage and say, “Fear not:
for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people….”
Merry Christmas from Bob and Arupa, and blessed be the
moments of beauty and joy, for they will be with us forever.