By Tom Rodriguez
Every holiday season as Christmas Day approaches, I always remember a very special Christmas Eve that occurred when I was a young boy growing up in Topeka, Kansas. The year was 1948, and I was seven years old.
It had snowed about four inches on December 23rd and the radio was forecasting more snow for Christmas Eve. That evening at dinner, Mom and Dad were talking about the program for the Midnight Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Dad sang in the choir and they had been practicing for weeks on the songs for the Christmas Eve Mass.
At about six o’clock that evening the snow started coming down. Large white snowflakes, the kind that float down and land softly on the ground still intact. It was a gorgeous sight. Since there was already a lot of snow on the ground, it didn’t take long for the new snow to accumulate and by eight o’clock everything outside was a winter wonderland. Despite all of the snow, the weather outside was not very cold for a late December day in Topeka.
About nine o’clock, Dad told Mom that he was going to leave early since he didn’t want to be late for Midnight Mass and the snow was still falling. It was about one mile over two bridges from our house in the Bottoms neighborhood on 2nd and Madison Street to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in the Oakland community, and that was a few years before we owned a car. As he was getting ready to leave my two brothers and I asked Dad if we could walk with him as far as Adams Street, which was only two blocks east of our house. He said to ask our mother, who surprised everyone by saying yes. Mom had no sooner said yes than my two brothers, Richard and John, and I, quickly got bundled up and away we all went.
Outside, snow was still falling and there was no one else in sight. It was just the four of us walking and making tracks in the virgin snow. In those days, few people in our neighborhood had cars and at that time of night, no one was out so it was just us and the snow that blanketed the trees, rooftops, and everything in sight, it was beautiful. Dad was taking his usual big steps and us boys had to run to keep up with him. When we got to the corner of 2nd and Adams Street, Dad said goodbye and we watched him until he faded into the snowy distance as he climbed the stairs to the foot bridge traversing the Santa Fe Railroad tracks.
With Dad gone, the three of us began to run and play in the deep snow, kicking up drifts and sliding feet first into the deep snow drifts. When we got to the large vacant field across from our house, each of us went his own way. I remember that I was running in the middle of the vacant field when I stopped and was immediately struck by how absolutely quiet it was. There were no cars, no people, no noise of any kind, and for a few minutes, not even my brothers. It was just me standing alone in the middle of the field engulfed in the snow still falling down in the lovely pink-grey night. I remember that I looked up to the sky for a long time. I guess I halfway expected to see Santa Claus and his reindeers flying in the sky. I just knew that if he was going to come, it would be on a beautiful snowy night like that one.
I was brought back to reality when I heard Mom calling for us to come home. On the way, my brothers and I had a snowball fight and once inside the house, we took off our wet coats and galoshes and sat around our beautifully decorated tree and listened to Christmas music on the phonograph with our mother.
It had been a wonderful, unforgettable night and I felt completely safe, happy, and loved. A little after eleven o’clock, Mom told us to get ready for bed or Santa Claus would not come. We got ready for bed and kissed Mom goodnight. I slept next to the large window in our bedroom and fell asleep looking out at the snow, still falling down.
I have never forgotten that special Christmas Eve in 1948. It was just like the Bing Crosby record, a real White Christmas. To my memory, that was the only one I ever experienced in which it actually snowed on Christmas Eve. I think of that special Christmas Eve every year when I pull out my Christmas records and play them for my grown children and grandkids, who have all heard many times about that special Christmas Eve when I was seven years old in my beloved hometown of Topeka, Kansas.