A Heaven-Sent White Christmas Miracle in the South

The miraculous white blanket appeared when he needed it the most.

Posted in , Dec 25, 2021

An illustration of a boy making a snow angel; Illustration by Michael Crampton

Born in Alabama, I lived most of my life in the South. When I was two years old, my parents moved us from Alabama, where they were born and raised, to Florida, the land of sunshine and sandy beaches. Eventually I had a brother and sister to play with, and we found endless entertainment, swimming or fishing nearly year round, or piling into the car for a family trip to the bowling alley. Before Dad died, there was only one thing missing from my life in the South, and that was snow.

“It’s not really Christmas without snow,” I sighed one year as we decorated the evergreen tree in Florida.

“Not Christmas?” my father said, helping my little brother hang an ornament on a high branch. “What do you need snow for?”

“In the movies there’s always snow at Christmas,” I said, “so it just feels like something’s missing.” I was almost 10 years old, and I’d never even seen anything as magical as ice crystals falling from the sky. I wanted to do the kinds of things I’d only heard about. Make a snowman. Have a snowball fight. Race down a powdery hill on an actual sled instead of sliding down a sand dune in my shorts.

My little sister held up a snowflake ornament. “Look,” she said. “Snow.”

“See, that’s the spirit,” Dad said. “How about we go outside and have a catch once this tree is done?” I was always up for a game of catch.

I wasn’t thinking about snow at all one afternoon the following August as I looked out the window, hoping Dad would hurry home. When he got back from his errand, he was going to take the whole family to the bowling alley. Maybe I’ll bowl a spare tonight, I thought—I’d come close before. I looked out the window again, but there was no sign of Dad. What was taking him so long?

Finally a police car arrived. A deputy got out and walked up to our door to talk to Mom. I overheard enough to piece things together before Mom had a long talk with my brother and sister and me. Dad had been killed in a car accident, and life changed just like that.

Mom decided it would be best for us to move back to Alabama to be near family, both hers and Dad’s. The move didn’t make a big difference to me. I missed my dad and had no hope that things would get better, no matter what state we lived in. I had no hope about anything at all.

Our new life in Alabama was hard, even if my siblings and I now had cousins and grandparents nearby. The kids at school talked funny—and thought I talked funny too. They played games I didn’t know with complicated rules I couldn’t follow. I was glad when Christmas break rolled around, but not because I saw any reason to celebrate.

Late afternoon on Christmas Eve, I stared out the window like I did that day I waited for Dad to come home. The sky was gray and joyless, and a cold north wind started to blow. Not that it mattered. Dad wasn’t there to have a catch. I thought I saw a few white specks, like scraps of paper, mixing in with the wind.

“Look at that,” Mom said, sidling up next to me. “It’s trying to snow.”

Just a few sad flakes, I thought.

Trying to snow was not snowing, and I wouldn’t let myself get my hopes up over something I knew was impossible. What was the point of hoping for anything if Dad couldn’t be here for Christmas? I walked away from the window that would only set me up for more disappointment and did my best to be enthusiastic during our family gift exchange before heading off to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, I was surprised to find that Santa had left a sled under the tree just for me. But that wasn’t all. It seemed I wouldn’t have to make do with using my new sled on a grassy hill. Somehow, while I slept, six inches of snow had fallen. The whole family gawked from the window at a blanket of white, the likes of which none of us had seen before. Even the weather forecasters couldn’t have predicted this Christmas miracle in the South.

My siblings and cousins and I played until we were nearly frozen, then came inside for hot chocolate, just like in the movies. As warmth returned to my body, I felt hope returning too. Maybe because I felt a little bit like Dad would never be completely missing from my life. “That’s the spirit,” he’d told my sister when she held up a snowflake ornament as if it were real. Our Christmas snow was real, and if that was possible, I had to believe anything was. Somebody—the only somebody who was able to make snow—wanted to make sure I knew that.

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