CHRISTMAS BLIZZARD 1947
By Nicole d'Entremont
Philadelphia/ Christmas Day/ 1947/ Time to Play
Sometimes it’s serendipity or, maybe, sometimes a message from beyond the veil prompting a writer to narrate a scene in a particular way. Thus it was when I was writing Christmas 1947 in Sketching with Renoir.
On the afternoon of December 24, 1947, Loganville was preparing for a modest Christmas Eve. May Bickles went with girlfriends to hear the Wanamaker’s Christmas organ performance. Olivia Sanders picked up a few last-minute presents for everyone with her Sears bonus. The drugstore at Summerside had seen more than one husband looking over the perfume and cosmetic counter and asking questions. A big box had come late in the afternoon to Lannon’s for the Bells all the way from Chicago. Lannon, himself, had driven over and delivered it since Bell or his daughters rarely stopped by the store. He didn’t know where they got their provisions, but maybe they did all their own butchering and grew their own food on the land. Lannon was curious about the whole operation so he didn’t mind dropping off the box.
He felt badly going by Louie Schmidt’s house and figured he should do the Christian thing and stop in and see how Louie was doing. He’d do that over Christmas week.
Wally wrapped another row of red and green lights around the front door of the gas station’s store and entwined their little spruce tree in the side yard with multicolored lights. This section of road from Summerside to Loganville was very dark. It would be cheery seeing those lights midway between the two towns. Not too many folks had lights up and around their homes on that stretch, maybe a candle in the window but no big displays, not like in the city where the whole place lit up.
If the outside of houses were not bedecked, that could not be said of the interiors. Everyone had a Christmas tree in the living room, and most of the homes, especially the Sanders’ home, smelled of cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts, and oranges and about any combination of cookies and hard candies. No one skimped in that regard.
The Boudreaus had fudge that Theo made, and Ev tucked gingersnaps in with the bowl of red apples, nuts and assorted Christmas cookies that she had Theo buy at the Summerside Bakery. Cleo’s contribution were homemade Christmas tree decorations, which hung on their tree along with their final garnish of silvery, lead icicles that shimmered in firelight.
It was dark by the time Theo went outside to get more wood for the fire. The Boudreaus wouldn’t be going to Midnight Mass this year, not with Ev pregnant and Cleo still getting over a cold. Theo stacked the wood in his arms. Looking up at the sky, he felt wetness in the air, but there was no ring around the moon even though the sky was cloudy.
As he turned to reenter, he stopped. There was his family framed in the lighted living room window. For a moment, he felt as if he was intruding on someone else’s life. Then the word “mine” struck him with the force of a blow. It was like the “start” you get seeing your face reflected in a store window when you weren’t expecting it. Disorienting and then familiar. He shook off the odd feeling, stamped his feet, and went into the house.
Let me intrude here as the author: It just seemed natural that Theo would have this experience, looking up at the sky after gathering wood, feeling the wetness in the air, but then seeing no ring around the moon foretelling any snow. If anything, while writing, I was surprised by his reaction to seeing his family through the lighted window and the funny feeling of intruding on someone else’s life and the shock that it was his own. It made me love him more for those confusing feelings. I thought, well, I’ll deal with that later but, right now I think I’ll just plot out some kind of snowstorm and then because an “I wonder ” crept in and “Oh, might as well” and knowing I was going to pick up the snowstorm stitch anyway the next day, I closed off that day’s work and went to Google and keyed in Christmas 1947, Philadelphia and Lo and Behold.
The Northeast Christmas Blizzard of 1947 caught everyone off guard. It rose up off the Atlantic Ocean, which was odd since these storms usually came out of the west. Later Theo wondered if that was the wetness he had felt in the air the night before.
Snow started falling lightly on Christmas Day. Cleo had jumped out of bed in the gray dawn and tiptoed into the living room with its smell of evergreen and spent embers. She felt the sagging heft of the wool stocking hung on its nail by the side of the fireplace. It was a special stocking her Grandmother Boudreau had knit for her and it had reindeer on it. She felt the antlers and the bumps and curves of the stocking’s bulk and the fat orange she knew was in the toe. Unhooking the stocking in the dim light, she glanced over at the tree but not down at its base because she didn’t want to see right away if Santa had left her………
But, of course, to reveal the outcome of this tantalizing last sentence, you must go to:
About the Author
Nicole d’Entremont is a writer and teacher with deep ancestral roots in French Canada. She holds a Masters Degree in Adult Education from The University of Southern Maine. For the past thirty years she has taught writing to students from Maine to California. She lives on Peaks Island, Maine and in Nova Scotia. She is the author of three novels, City of Belief, A Generation of Leave, and her latest novel, Sketching with Renoir. Link to Blog: https://nicole-dentremont.com/
About the Excerpt
“Sketching with Renoir builds a world out of the closely imagined observation of a particular place. Through a series of interwoven narratives, Nicole d’Entremont has created an evocative portrait of small-town life in postwar America, perfectly capturing that era’s sense of hope and possibility as well as the restless searchingness that was always latent beneath. At the center of the story is Evelyn Boudreau, who follows her inner longing in faith, family, and art, and whose quiet dignity underpins her private revelations. As we enter into the rhythms of one community’s works and days—the passing of the seasons, the births and unexpected deaths—we experience fiction’s perennial moral question: how to make a life, both as it is and as we would want it to be.” —Michael Centore, editor of Today’s American Catholic