Sometimes we use the same words, but the meanings are different . . .
|I said to my mother, "I hope we have a white Christmas."
She looked at me thoughtfully and I saw something in her eyes, something scary that turned and scampered away even as I watched. Something threatening that frightened me as it passed so swiftly and disappeared into the darkness of her eyes.
"Oh, no," she said softly, a bit of fear astride her words. "Oh, no." She shook her head. "That would mean your father couldn't work, and there would be no money for Christmas."
And she walked away from me into the dining room, her steps echoing in the silence of the rooms.
I sat for a moment, puzzled. What did she mean? I stood up, pushed my chair to the table and walked outside and sat down on the porch. Wrinkling my forehead, I placed my chin on my fist and stared out at the street as my curiosity placed back and forth in my mind, searching, wondering. White Christmas? Did it have a special meaning, something I didn't know about? Why couldn't my father work?
A dog barked down the street and I turned my eyes toward him. A car, a red car, sleek and beautiful, drove from that direction and I followed it with my eyes as my thoughts continued to swirl.
White Christmas. To me, it meant snow and beauty, sparkling air, sleds and fun. What did White Christmas mean to her? It had to be one of those codes for adult things, I thought. Nothing about a white Christmas could be bad, could it? There had to be another meaning to the phrase. Some meaning they'd never told me.
There are many things adults talk about that have no meaning and make no sense to me or to my friends. We've talked about these things among ourselves and only felt confused.
White Christmas? Isn't that the way it's supposed to be? My father builds houses and works with hammers and nails, saws and lumber. What can White Christmas mean to him?
I stood up on the porch, thrusting my cold hands into my jacket pockets.
The other phrases I didn't understand echoed in my mind. Divorce. Death. Bankruptcy. Cancer. And, now, I added White Christmas to the list.
I thought about the fear, the worry that had crossed her face. White Christmas, whatever it is, must be very, very bad. Worse than divorce, whatever that is. Worse than cancer. Maybe even worse than death.
I sat down again on the porch step. One more thing, I thought. One more thing I have to worry about. Something else to be afraid of.
I looked into the world from the safety of my porch and began to whistle softly through my teeth as I struggled to put a barrier between myself and this strange new concept of White Christmas.