Unseasonable Christmas

Cover of In a Spring Garden edited by Richard Lewis, illustrated by Ezra Jack KeatsAs 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.Photo of Becky Birtha on December 25 1964.

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.)Photo of first draft manuscript of Christmas story written by Becky Birtha in 1964. 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.

Illustration by Ezra Jack Keats from In A Spring Garden edited by Richard Lewis

Illustration by Ezra Jack Keats from In A Spring Garden edited by Richard Lewis

Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *