London had never seen a Christmas like this. Snow drifts swallow up posts, hide curbs, and obliterate steps. If you were to walk outside, it’d feel as though you’ve been transplanted into an alien landscape. The landmarks indicate it’s your neighbourhood but it doesn’t smell like London, feel like London or sound like London. If you are lucky enough to see a car purring down the street- a comforting sight that would be!- the only proof you have that it wasn’t a ghostly apparition are its tire marks. The tail lights recede leaving you feeling bereft and once again alone in this strangely cocooned world.
As you cautiously pick your way down the street, walking in the middle of the road, doors slowly open one by one. You wave to the strangers that poke their heads out, first the adults then the children. Some of the older boys tumble out the front doors of their homes and soon the peace and quiet is shattered by the exuberant shouts of children playing. Snowballs whizz through the air, groups of children being making snowmen and the older kids pack down the snow in stairwells to make an icy slide.
It’s not long before the adults join in on the fun. What was once a stuffy, anonymous street has turned into a neighbourhood party. The local pharmacist finally meets the person belonging to the name in his prescription log and the grocer joins in, making him a little less scary to the younger children.
Someone opens their living room windows and Christmas carols begin. Soon the people join in and a band of carolers is born. New friendships are forged; an impromptu party is organized. Some families supplying a bit of food, others hot chocolate.
The once-pristine snow is scarred with tracks from snowman-building, little boots running this way and that, and the buildings are peppered with errant snowballs. It had a cold, austere beauty before now. It may no longer be flawless but it now has the warmth and richness of childhood innocence.
© Sandra O’Driscoll 2012