Between Charm and Magic


Snowflakes, pouring down out of the boundless darkness of the night sky. Snowflakes, brilliant white in the headlights, accelerating willfully into the windshield. Big, silver dollar snowflakes, swirling into gentle collisions with each other, lacing together into strands of delicate snow garlands, that tumble down from the black void to the earth below.

Sitting in the backseat of the big station wagon, wedged between a bevy of sisters, I lean forward, over the front seat, over my younger brother’s head, leaning forward as though to meet the snowflakes in their headlong rush toward me.

My entire world is windshield and snow flying out of the darkness, framed by the bundled shoulders of my father and mother. Encased in a traveling snow globe, traversing the short distance between charm and magic.

Behind us, our tracks in the new fallen snow lead back to grandma and grandpa’s house, to rice pudding, cousins, aunts and uncles, back to the cozy, candle-lit charm of elder-family tradition.

Before us lies the untracked road to the magic of our glowing Christmas tree. From under its tinseled boughs spills a cascade of packages, awaiting our return.

Each Christmas Eve of my childhood, this same moment recurs. The same snowflakes, the same slow, gentle ride down the empty, white country road, the same suspension of all noise and haste. It is an enchanted moment, where contentment and anticipation merged into holy bliss.

The lingering contentment now sustains us as we ride, shoulders hunched in the frigid car, leaving behind us grandma’s warm house, with its dark aged furniture and pantry filled with foods she had canned herself, and old pictures upon the walls, a living shrine to family and heritage. We sat in ladder-backed chairs around the formal dining table, with china plates filled with rice pudding, white as snow, until buttered, cinnamoned, and brown-sugared into a luscious puddle of ocher goo, sipping heavy grape juice from cut glass goblets, partaking of the last supper from another era.

Anticipation builds as we approach our farmstead. We shall open the door of our simple home and spill into the quiet of the house, all eyes leaping to the tree – and the wonders beneath its blessing branches. There is a scramble to remove mittens, hats, coats, and boots; followed by a swarm into the living room, to form a ring of seven gaping children, taking in the gifts, wondering what each of the magnificent packages might contain.

But still, I am riding in the station wagon, gazing upon the holy white rain that falls from the heavens. Through some incantation of the nature sprites, this holiness has emerged from some high flung, amorphous mist, suspended there until that mystical, infinitesimal moment when out of it crystallizes the six-dimensional perfection of Snowflakes. And I am suspended there, in the car, in the heavens, in that holy moment, poised between charm and magic.


(I wrote this in 2003, inspired by the Dylan Thomas prose poem, A Child’s Christmas in Wales)

32 thoughts on “Between Charm and Magic

  1. Beautiful, I wish we had some snow here. We have only had dreary cold days. I’m hoping we will experience some of that winter beauty here soon. Thanks for sharing this beautiful photo.

  2. Very worthy of Thomas is your reminiscence; they both capture the most particular joy of Christmas, an experience both shared and deeply personal. Also, like others here, I’ve felt disconcerted by a strangely snowless December… so I’m thankful for your vivid imagery to help me get into the spirit of the season!

    • That is high praise, thank you, Sunshine! So glad it coaxes your spirit a bit into the spirit of the season. Where are you, that the snow has missed you?

      • Wisconsin, in the Great Lakes region of the US — we should be knee-deep in snow by now, but instead we’ve had frost and fog. With any luck though we should see some snow by Christmas and the warmer air will mean those giant snowflakes we all love so much…

        • Ah! We’re neighbors! I’m in Minnesota, but have family in WI, and I lived there for 7 years, in Waukesha and Madison (did some graduate school at UW Madison).

          • What a happy coincidence; I know Minnesota well and Madison is where I live (and grew up, UW and everything…) Well met in the Midwest, Cnawan! 🙂

            • Indeed, well met, Sunshine! Remarkable – so nice to meet another midwesterner on WordPress. – oh, you have such lousy warm weather forecast for the next several days. You have my sympathy! 🙂

  3. Oh my, this was so beautiful. It is hard to even write through the tears that are still welling in my eyes,. . .this brought up so many emotions and connections to the innocence and pure knowing of that unspoken yet palpable beauty and power and Love that was closer to the touch at Christmas time. Your words evoked that, invited that in to this moment ~ Whoa! I was with you in that car ~ I guess in truth we all were. .
    Merry Christmas Cnawan and Thank you.<3

    • Suz, thank you so very, very much. So touched by your comment, so gratified that the piece worked so powerfully for you. It is a beautiful moment, thank you for joining me there. Warm blessings, Cnawan.

  4. This memory feels very much alive in you still, Cnawan. I love that visual of “encased in a traveling snow globe… evokes for me the image of something greater out there making it snow. And then inside the intimacy of family. Happy Holidays to you.

    • Diahann, yes, you apprehended that quite well, the memory of that drive on Christmas Eve is very much alive for me. I so love that moment, and I am so grateful for your reflections on this piece – thank you so much for taking it in and reflecting it back to me: the sphere of human intimacy moving through something greater – I love this. It was right in front of me, and yet I didn’t fully grasp it. May your holidays be blessed, firelight and candlelight to you….

  5. Yes I have enjoyed! I am in Dallas right now with Dad Somewhere between Michigan and Hawaii weather. It was 41 when I got here 67 today and possible 30’s by Monday. Going with the flow as it is strange how I can warm my body up by physically changing my body temperature, most people do not know we can even get snow in Maui up on Haleakela.. Took my sister up there last Friday for sunrise and wind chill in the 30’s!

  6. Just revisited this post, its so very heartwarming. A magnificently written piece…I can’t overstate how vivid the imagery is and how much it beckons nostalgic emotion. If only Christmas could easily feel just like it did in childhood, if only that magic could be easily revived despite grown up gravity… Im still striving for that one 🙂
    Cnawan, I wish I could click the like button twice on this 💕

    • Angelina, thank you so very much for such kind words. So gratifying that the piece touched you so deeply. Yes, to revive that magic would be so beautiful. Though I must confess that reading your comment is a pretty magical experience itself! Wishing you charming and magical holidays. Warm blessings and much love to you, my friend. Cnawan.

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