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December 17, 2019 By Liz Wildberger

Christmas — California to Maryland

We arrived in suburban Maryland from California. The contrast was stark, for we were greeted by raw newly scraped Maryland clay, unpaved streets, and no landscaping to soften the approach to the two-story Georgian colonial that was to be our home. The only occupants of Pointer Ridge were five families who had purchased the model homes and resided at the foot of our steep hill. The situation grew no better through September, October and November, but by then we did have paved streets, electricity and landline phones.

When December arrived, we still did not have grass or trees; this was not the season to plant, we were told. So, we faced the second snowstorm of the children’s lives — the first being the Christmas we lived in Kensington, also in Maryland — with a mixture of awe and uncertainty.

We admired the white blanket that covered the ugly brown crags and crevasses of our property. Unfortunately, the snow also carried with it plenty of viral particulate matter, and we displaced Californians spent two weeks before Christmas with fevers, chills, upset stomachs and other distressing symptoms. I could not get out to accomplish any Santa-shopping, and a visit to Santa Claus was patently impossible as we pondered the snowdrifts and found ourselves deep in the priority list of snow removal. Marty and I resigned ourselves to “the year without a Santa Claus,” right here in Maryland.

The nadir came three days before Christmas, when Marty hauled himself to a nursery, purchased a living evergreen tree and brought it home to us. It rested in a bright red wheelbarrow in our front yard, optimistically hopeful for an early spring. I dragged myself to the kitchen to prepare another vat of chicken soup, and we sat down to dinner, snuffling into our soup bowls. A knock at the door, and in came Santa Claus, a total surprise. It was our neighbor, Ed Foley, a burly FBI agent, and he had a large bag of goodies on his shoulder. He knew all of our children’s names and deftly incorporated the names as he distributed toys, games, and candy canes. His arrival was such an astounding event that even the older kids had a bout of temporary amnesia and claimed it must have really been St. Nick. The Christmas carol with the words, “Fast away the Old Year Passes,” had poignant meaning for us. We were all delighted to send it on its way to oblivion, and to anticipate happier times in the following year. But we were to find out the gift of optimism was not included in Santa’s backpack.

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