Monday, May 27, 2013

Do Not Open Until Christmas

 I remember one night, near Christmas, when a snowstorm blew down over Lake Erie from Alberta, Canada.  Those are always the coldest ones.  Canadian air in December will change what’s going on outside the window in a matter of minutes.  There is a howl as it rushes through the trees.  Branches creak.  Signs sway.  Dead leaves, dry and crisp, swirl in corners.

I was with my two brothers in an upstairs bedroom when it hit.  The topic of discussion?  Christmas vacation.  In Ohio it begins on the twenty-first, every year.  Two weeks without school, and new toys to play with.  It was still Matchbox for me back then:  the cars, the cities, the racetracks.  Oh and Milton Bradley had this really cool spaceship called the Starbird.  You wouldn’t believe the stories I could dream up around those things.  And come the twenty-fifth, I would have more set-pieces to use.  I wanted two weeks of that.

But when that clipper from Alberta came down, everyone stopped talking.  It hit the window like a fist.  Tony, the oldest brother, went to the glass and peered out.  Todd and I did the same seconds later.  The street—West Main Street—was empty, but shadows played everywhere over the blacktop as the trees shook and the streetlights swayed.  There was a storm coming.

There was a storm coming… so the three of us started doing something that lots of other people in the western hemisphere do during snowy nights at Christmas-time:  We started telling ghost stories.