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White Christmas.

I cannot find any record of it snowing on December 25, 1987 in San Diego, California. But I know it snowed.

My grandfather was a force, loud and lovely. He would sit in an orange corduroy chair and smoke his pipe and wear flannel button-down shirts and yell about Reagan. He would make us recite Robert Frost. He grew up in the hills of Hollywood where there was never a white Christmas. He would ditch high school and make $40 playing an injured solider moaning for help as Scarlet O’Hare rushed to find Dr. Meade. He was a captain in the Pacific during the war. He carried a knife and taught my dad how to shoot rabbits. He built a kidney-shaped pool and would carry me on his shoulders into the deep end. He bought everyone in his family tape recorders in 1970 so they could all send each other tapes. His voice booms out 39 years later, alive and curious and egotistical and loud. He was fat. I could never reach my arms around him.

It was different in 1987. For Christmas he drove from Los Angeles to our house in San Diego. When I hugged him, I could feel bones through his flannel shirt. I could reach my arms around him. He didn’t smell like tobacco.  He didn’t get on the ground and play with us. He didn’t drink his whiskey. He sat on the couch and spoke softly or not at all.

We were kids. We didn’t pay attention to the adults. Santa brought new scooters and we rode them around our driveway. It was another San Diego Christmas, warm, sunny, happy. At noon, the wind shifted. White flakes started to fall. I don’t remember who noticed it first, but we ran down the stairs and danced in the snow. We were laughing and spinning and saying, “What is this!” I was wearing a black and white button-down shirt and black shorts. There are no photos, but I know I was wearing that. And I know it was snowing. It lasted for five minutes.

My grandfather watched us from the window. He was laughing too.

Fourteen days later, he died.

Twenty-two years later, we’re eating breakfast in our courtyard. It’s blue sky and palm trees and warm sun on our backs. I keep looking at the sky, hoping it’ll snow.

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