Christmas is different once you grow up, move away from home, and find that as the wife of a man in the United States Air Force home is wherever you at at that moment in time.  Moving first to Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan, Christmas there was much like any other with the cold weather and snow that I was used to in Wisconsin. What was different was not having family nearby. Sure there were the phone calls from Mom, Dad, Grandparents, presents that came through the mail in brown paper outer wrappings often weeks before the big day and cards from those friends back home that now seemed far away. Having to make sure that any cards and packages were sent out in time to arrive before the Christmas day. You learn to share these holidays with other military families living on base with you who are in the same situation. 
After two years in South Carolina, Bob, my husband, was in Vietnam where Christmas was a time alone, living in Hanahan, a small community outside Charleston Air Force Base, with now a family of four children we had added to our lives and waiting for his tour overseas to end. Shopping at the base for gifts for the family in the warmth of a Southern day just didn’t seem right and hard to get used to. Spanish Moss is nothing like the sight of snow sparkling and glistening as you peer out the window watching it fall. 
Winter in Minot, North Dakota, at the base was memorable, one I could have done without. Cold, and blowing wind, all part of winter along with snow that swirled constantly creating a haze because of the intensity where reaching zero degrees would have felt like a heat wave. The great parts were the Northern lights with their every changing rainbows of pinks, blues, yellows that would intensify and diminish like great bands of ribbons across the sky. Spectacular! Glancing out the window at night and looking twice to make sure that really was two white snowshoe rabbits in the yard, standing four feet tall, that you never saw in the light of day. Where did they go then? Not so good winter didn’t end then. Easter baskets in snowdrifts, eggs hidden in the basement, little league opening day canceled due to too much snow on the field. The worry all winter long, the hope that the car would start. 
On to California, where arriving at the end of August, thought we would die from the heat. How could anyone function in this hundred plus heat? The first winter here was great, the boys out riding their new bikes on Christmas, racing remote control cars up and down the driveway in shorts on a seventy- two degree day. March Air Force Base nearby to shop at for Christmas wearing sunglasses and in shorts. Quite a contrast from what we had just left behind. 
It is now thirty-seven years that have come and gone since I arrived here, and I have gotten used to Christmas without snow to shovel, having to layer clothes, put on snow boots, gloves, and sometimes, I look up at the mountains covered like huge ice cream cones with snow and think how beautiful it is, but most of all knowing the car will start. 
-Ruth Koepp