On the one hand, you felt terribly disconnected from the world depicted by television and the movies. As a child, I had no idea what snow really looked or felt like. My one experience, when I was four, was seeing flakes coming down. I was so excited that I ran to the side of the house to tell my mother. By that time, they were gone. Not until my thirties would I experience a snowy Christmas.
Growing up, I wasn't fleeing snow or staying in a resort. Christmas in this preternaturally green oasis surrounded by the Sonoran Desert was all I knew. And yet it seemed right and possessed no little sense of enchantment and meaning. After all, Jesus had been born in a desert. In the Phoenix of my youth, going to the Christmas Eve service at Central United Methodist Church and exiting into the chill, dry air and canopy of stars, I felt very close to those shepherds abiding in the field.
In the 1960s the luminaria on the sidewalks of Willo were decades away. Willo wasn't even a name. The fancy light shows were to be found in Palmcroft and Alvarado, where the rich people lived. Even so, most houses in the contiguous neighborhoods that ran from Roosevelt to Thomas and Seventh Avenue to Seventh Street had some sort of lights. We always had a tree in the picture window of our house. My grandmother had her favorite tamale vendor.