Our family lived in west Texas and came to Oklahoma that winter to visit family for Christmas. What memories we took home with us! Our first stop was in Vinita to visit our dad's family, then we went to Welch to visit Sylvia and Dr. J.O. Bradshaw at the Santa Claus Ranch. Sylvia and my mother were sisters and Bradshaw was their maiden names. Sylvia then married a Bradshaw. To make it more interesting, my mother graduated medical school and practiced medicine in Welch with Sylvia's husband, Dr. J.O. Bradshaw, where she was known locally as "Dr. Bea" Bradshaw. She later married my dad and gave up her practice to raise a family. So coming back to Welch for her that winter was a homecoming, a chance to see many of her patients and friends and for them to meet us.
We arrived in time to fill small paper sacks with oranges and hard rock candy for the children who came to sit on Santa's lap in the sleigh with all the reindeers lined up outside the front living room window. Dr. Bradshaw had what you might call a fully outfitted Santa Claus sitting in the sleigh and he had a microphone and speaker rigged up so while he was in the living room, the children could converse with the Santa and the Santa would ask and answer the child. How very modern in the 1950's! I wonder if anyone remembers their conversations with that Santa?
For years and years the Dobson Museum had displays you could count on to stay put. That is finally changing now with the new director, Jordan Boyd. When I visited the museum recently to see the Tri-State Mining display downstairs, I went with such purpose, I never looked either way to see if the "sleigh" had remained a part of the museum's experience. It had been refinished, polished and looked beautiful the last time I had seen it there.
That winter in the mid 50's was a snowy time and for us coming up from our Texas desert, it created a long lasting memory. In the early 70's our family moved to Oklahoma and since then we have experienced some real winters with significant snow and ice events. It didn't happen for us this year, or for Vermont or Buffalo, New York with all reporting unseasonable warmth. We have blooms budding out on the flowering quince, what we have always called fire-in-the-bush and Washington, D.C. has cherry blossoms showing "little pink warning flags" that the climate is causing plants to change.
The climate is changing, and yes we may yet have some winter, but 2015 is going down in the record books as the warmest year our earth has experienced. This breaks the previous record warmest year which was 2014. Each of the last 20 years has been warmer globally than the year before.
The Santa Claus Ranch is long gone, with a new home built on that property. But memories stay with us. Hard rock candy and a juicy orange will always remind me of Christmas.
Climate change is going to start messing with these memories, too. Oranges around the world have been threatened by a condition called "citrus greening" or HLB (huanglongbing), caused by a bacterial infection carried by a fly. The tree produces less each year and dies after five years. The fruit that is produced never gets sweet. Lots of orchards in Florida and around the world are being dug up and replanted with blueberries and strawberries and peaches.
Pope Francis declared during his visit to the White House that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. Meaning we need to begin to make every effort now, we, not those who follow us.
Or Christmas just won't be the same without that little orange.