The way a crow, Shook down on me, The dust of snow, From a hemlock tree, Has given my heart, A change of mood, And saved some part, Of a day I had rued. – Robert Frost, “A Dust Of Snow”
It is easy to get locked to your desk in the newspaper business; especially now in the e-mail, Internet and digital age when we do more sitting in front of computer screens to make our deadlines. We can become too accustomed to our chairs.
Thus it seemed to me on Saturday that I needed to get some air and embrace the things happening beyond the front door of the Sun Newspaper office and do some on site reporting like we used to in my early days as the paper’s editor.
I determined that I would not farm out the assignment to take photos at the Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas tree lighting event next to the Seal Beach Pier.
This was despite not yet feeling much in the spirit of the season. It was easier to do when I was a youth growing up in a large family in the northeast, where we had some actual white Christmastimes. It was always the most exciting and fun time of the year.
This, not to mention the anticipation of Christmas morning and the family living room that for one day would look like a warehouse of presents. The holiday was always a big event in our house.
It had been a long time since those days and some years passed of late without hardly noticing the day.
I knew the tree lighting organizers had expanded the event and that they were importing snow. I thought that gave it possibilities for some good photos for the paper.
So it was that I found myself walking down Main Street to cover the event. I was wearing a red shirt; not necessarily to be in the holiday spirit, but I had a silly notion that it looked OK on me.
I was expecting the snow to be used to build a little slide and that it would be easy to get some quality pictures. When I got there, however, I discovered the snow covered a flat area, roped off from the burgeoning crowd of kids and parents anxious to enter and play.
Suddenly, Seal Beach Chamber Director Laura Ellsworth raised her arm and threw the opening snowball. Suddenly, a scene of bedlam broke out.
Kids started darting from all around me, picking up snow and following their instincts by rolling the stuff into balls and throwing them at each other.
I realized it was not going to be an easy task to get a decent shot, even though by then I was crouching inside the pen with the kids running all around.
Try as I might, with the sun beginning to fade over Catalina and the melee continuing fast and furious, I was hoping my efforts were not in vain.
Off to the side I saw Marc Loopesko, an irrepressible community volunteer and a leader of the Run Seal Beach, grinning at my efforts. I later learned that Run Seal Beach had financed the snow.
In a good-natured tease between friends, Marc called out, “Hey kids, throw a snowball at the man in the red shirt.”
Then, as I was standing amid the fury, I thought that it might not be a bad idea. It could make for a good photo opportunity.
So I called, “Yeah, go ahead and throw a snowball at me.”
Well folks, now I know two things.
You should not wear a red shirt to a bullfight, or any place where they are throwing snowballs.
No sooner had I blurted out the words than I was pelted with what seemed like a machine gun blast of snow, on my shirt, in the legs, and one came and slammed me in the head, just above where I was holding the camera to my eye.
I looked around and saw Marc and a bunch of other people laughing, so I laughed too.
The truth is, it actually was fun and seemed to thaw some of the Scrooge out of my soul.
Afterwards, walking back to the office after the camera ran out of memory, I began to think about some of the Christmas past in Seal Beach, back when my two children were toddlers and we would bring them to the Christmas Parade. I remembered sliding with my daughter Casey on a little man made snow hill one year.
I recalled how my son TJ, who now towers over me in height, would ride on my shoulders during the parade as I took photos.
Then I remembered how I always looked forward to the holiday season while working here at the Sun and especially the night of the Seal Beach Christmas Holiday Parade.
It was always the happiest day of the year in Seal Beach. For all its quaint charm, it trumped Disneyland for me.
For a while I had not exactly been looking forward to the parade as much as I used to.
Now I am.
Maybe I’ll even see if my kids would like to join us. It’s amazing what a little magical snow can do in a child’s hands.
Dennis Kaiser is the editor of the Sun Newspaper.