article, written by Gus Breytspraak’s sister, was published in the Commercial
Appeal on December 25, 1997. For the class of ’63, it may, collectively, be
the most remembered Christmas ever. Many of us had left home for the first time,
be it for college, the military, marriage or our first real job. By the time the
snow finished falling, most had returned to our families for the holidays. That
Christmas was only the third time Memphis had seen an accumulation of snow on
Still Dreaming of a White Christmas by
Katie Breytspraak Cousins
snowflakes began to fall softly, featherlike and sparingly as we drove to church
on that Sunday morning before Christmas. The weatherman had predicted no
accumulation, but still my hopes were sparked for at least a dusting of snow for
had been a dull and depressing few weeks following the assassination of
President Kennedy, and we all were in need of a joyous holiday season to
counteract the gloom of November 1963. I was 14 years old. To me, snow was (and
still is) a wondrous beauty, a quiet peaceful world of white and an opportunity
for reckless abandoning fun!
we walked out of church, snow had covered the ground, and by late
afternoon, several inches had accumulated.
We awoke Monday morning to 14 inches of icy wonder and below-zero
temperatures were predicted for later Christmas week.
the days ahead, most people in the city were stranded. Indeed, shopping pretty
much came to a halt. Presents purchased prior to the big snow would have to do.
Parties and holiday gatherings had to be canceled. Travelers were stuck. And my
cousin, Beth Jones, who was only 11, was going to have to stay in Memphis with
us. She would not be able to get home to her family in La Grange, Ga. The best
Christmastime of all had begun.
was a memorable week. Worried about my cousin’s homesickness at Christmastime,
my family wrapped several presents for her and included her in the
stocking-stuffer fun. On Christmas Eve night several brave family members got
out sleds, put on several layers of clothes, and pulled and pushed each other to
the “sledding hill” at Brooks Art Gallery.
raced down the hill by the light of huge bonfires that had been built in trash
cans. Before our fingers and toes were completely numb, we trudged over to the
Overton Park lake, which had become a solid sheet of ice. Though we were
beginning to feel the cold in our bones, we skated, determined to be able to say
that we had actually been sledding and ice skating on Christmas Eve in Memphis.
Having thoroughly exhausted ourselves, we made it home to hot chocolate and
sandwiches in bed.
Day was a blur of humor, warmth and light. I didn’t notice if I had fewer
“bought” presents. I had the joy of the season, the beautiful white blanket
of ice and snow, sledding and ice skating for days, my crazy wonderful family
and my stranded cousin-my best-friend cousin-staying with me. These were holiday
presents to be treasured in my memory forever.