As the warm, unseasonable temperatures and cloudy skies continued right through Christmas, I kept remembering another Christmas when the weather was nearly the same. Finally a meteorologist mentioned that date—1964, the year of the warmest temperature on December 25th, until 2015.
I remember 1964 as a year when I was struggling with having to grow up, caught between being a child and an adult, when all the rules were changing, and nothing seemed to fit the old patterns and expectations any more. I wasn’t in a hurry to be an adult. I was asked, but didn’t know what I wanted for Christmas. Unseasonable weather just added to the confusion.
1964 was one of few growing-up years for which I can still remember particular presents. My sister gave me balls of scented soap in deep bright colors—something I’d never seen or heard of, never known existed. In the following weeks, I actually used it.
My mother gave me a picture book of poetry. The book was In a Spring Garden, classical haiku collected by Richard Lewis. It was illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats in colors as vivid as the scented soap. I knew who Ezra Jack Keats was. The Snowy Day had won the Caldecott just the year before, an event worthy of celebration in our family. In a Spring Garden is still among my treasured possessions.
Maybe that memory has stayed with me because someone snapped a picture of me with my gift, by the Christmas tree. Maybe it is because I wrote a story based on that Christmas. (I recently searched for and found the first, and maybe only, draft, plunging me right back into that time.) But I suspect it is because of the book—anchoring that day fast in my memory for all these years, and letting me know it was still O.K. to keep being a kid, even after I grew up.