It’s here: the season of joy and cheer. Every year it looks different, but there is one tradition that will never disappear, and that’s listening to Christmas music. Especially the songs I grew up with and still love. A few years ago I made several CDs from music I bought from iTunes with a mix of modern songs and old favorites from my youth. Anytime I want to be transported back to happier times, I just pop one into the CD player and let the memories wash over me. It’s one of the purest forms of enjoyment in my life, and at this time of year I indulge every chance I can get.
My favorite carols have always been the ones about Jesus and how he came to this earth. I mean, these give me goosebumps every time: O Holy Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. There are also some from later years, such as Mary, Did You Know? and Child of the Poor/Away In a Manger, that really bring the meaning of Christmas into my consciousness and lead me to thoughts of gratitude to God for my many blessings. The thing I’m most thankful for this year is being safe and warm; if things had continued to go sideways during that December of 2014 when Will and I missed homelessness by a squeak, I’d probably be telling another story. I see people on the streets in the city I live in, and think “there but for the grace of God go I”. Sometimes all that separates us humans is a bit of luck…or an outpouring of love from a good family.
But in case you think I’m all serious about this Christmas thing, I love the funny side of the holidays. My kids will tell you that it wasn’t Christmastime until I heard I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas…and sang it at the top of my lungs, which cracked them up every time. I also got a kick out of Alvin and the Chipmunks and the one about poor Grandma getting run over by one of Santa’s reindeer. (Well, y’all know I have a rather twisted sense of humor.) However, there are a few I could do without, such as Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. My mother beat me over the head with that one every Christmas. I was literally petrified at the idea that Santa would pass me by if I so much as pouted a little. Of course, my vision of what pouting was differed greatly from hers, which was basically that anything I dared to dispute constituted defiance, which was an even greater sin…and what’s more, Santa knew about it. I couldn’t win. But every year, he did come to our house and leave me some pretty nice things, like a bike one year and a Chatty Cathy doll which was all the rage back in the mid-1960s.
Speaking of Santa, I have to admit I find the whole concept kind of weird, even though Will and I raised our kids with him as the giver of the really awesome (and most expensive) gifts. My daughter Mandy and her husband didn’t—my grandsons didn’t believe in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy either—and sometimes I think they were right. After all, here’s this fat old guy who sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake; it’s like he’s God but in a red suit and boots. And that deal about sitting on his lap and telling him all your secret wishes while your picture is being taken? Tres creepy.
Anyway, this is the time of year when I wax nostalgic, so please bear with me as I (over)share my musings. It’s also the time when I miss Will most of all. Yes, I’ve learned to live without him, and Christmas is always good even though there aren’t many traditions in this house. But he made the holidays extra special, and it wasn’t just the presents he gave me (although those were pretty great). He embodied the holiday spirit in every way possible, from getting drenched putting up the outside lights in the rain, to making real cocoa for the family on Christmas Eve while we all watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Ben seems to have taken over where Will left off. He bitches and moans while he decorates, but he loves it and the results are always amazing. This year he’s turned the inside of the house into a winter wonderland, with a big tree and bright white LED lights as well as candles and lights around the patio door. The outside has lights around the front door, garage, and a blue spruce that grows out in the front yard. It took him parts of three days to get it all done, but it’s worth it. He may not think it’s a big deal, but I love it that he loves to decorate for the seasons like Will and I used to. A chip off the ol’ blocks, as it were.
That’s how Christmas is in my life—ever changing, but also ever staying the same. And that’s just the way I like it.