Olden Times and Ancient Rhymes, Part Deux
Somewhere in my memory, lies the joy of Christmas.....and the more things change, the more they stay the same.The last overwrought strains of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" come to an abrupt halt as I switch the dial on my office stereo from radio to CD. Normally, I listen to this particular station all season long without complaint, but for some reason I can't seem to make myself content this year with the eclectic holiday blend of the modern with the not-so-modern. In fact, I've already spent a bundle of cash at iTunes hunting down the authentic Christmas songs, beloved since childhood, that instantly melt away the years---and turn me back into an excited nine-year-old---with the very first notes........
I'm talking "Jingle Bells" by The Singing Dogs. I'm talking "Fah-Who-Foraze" by the Whos in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And could it really be Christmas without a certain Burl Ives ditty about a reindeer with an illuminated schnozz, or Alvin and the Chipmunks doing their helium-induced ode to the commercial side of the holiday in "Christmas, Don't Be Late"?
But, the yearning for more innocent times runs much deeper than that this year. I've found myself deliriously happy---much like the fourth-grader I once was---at locating so many of my favorite old recordings (minus the skips and pops of Mother and Daddy's ancient LPs) which have symbolized this most joyful time of the year for me ever since I was old enough to remember. Each song calls to mind magical times with my long-deceased grandmother.....memorable gifts......the special annual shopping trip with my father.....even tragedy, like the night only a couple weeks before Christmas when my friend Julie Ann's house burned to the ground with all her Christmas presents in it.
These tunes also bring back the wonder and the glory of Christmas as I used to imagine it......and indeed still imagine it:
"Joy to the world! the Lord is come,
Let Earth receive her King......."
Yes, even as a Santa-believing child, I loved waking up early Christmas morning and knowing that a baby named Jesus had come into the world to save us all from Satan's ire, and I thought of Him as the ultimate gift. Now, when I listen to Mantovani's orchestra playing what is arguably the most lush version of "Adeste Fideles" in existence, I can't help but think I was right all along.
Sights and even smells of long-ago Christmases can be evoked by the sounds issuing from the built-in speakers. I reminisce about my older kids' first Christmases as well as my own, as Mitch Miller's "Must Be Santa" begins; we had the old 8-track player back in those days and I played that song over and over as it was a favorite from my early life, and my daughter couldn't get enough of hearing all of Santa's attributes. Then comes "O Holy Night" on the pipe organ and chimes, which calls to mind the aromas of real Christmas trees and bacon/cheese hot dogs (don't ask me why, it's a loooooong story.....but it's a really good story), and then a few Lawrence Welk Christmas tunes which remind me of dancing on the hearth of the stone fireplace with my Nana, pretending to be a couple of the singer-dancers from the show.
The holiday music of that era also tugs harder at my heart the older I get, bringing about a wistfulness that is new to me, yet I feel curiously unwilling to chase it away quickly because it has to do with loved ones who have passed on. Why is it that I miss them more at this time of the year than at any other? Sometimes I think I'd give almost anything to spend one more Christmas at home with my parents, who were less than supportive of me in many ways when I was growing up but who made special efforts to ensure that each and every Christmas at our house was a good one. I especially miss my grandmother, who WAS Christmas for me in almost every sense of the word: an unselfish soul who loved me unconditionally, an inspiration who introduced me to the love of God, a stable influence in a world where I was never really sure if I was on solid ground.......a light in the darkness.
My homemade CD ends with the sweetly melancholic jazz number "Christmastime Is Here", from the Peanuts Christmas special I've watched every year, along with Rudolph, Frosty, Grinchy, and the Little Drummer Boy, since they first aired back in the 1960s. I used to think that when I grew up, I'd be sad because I couldn't watch them anymore; then when I had kids, I had a built-in excuse to keep watching them. Now that I'm a grandmother, however, I've given up on ever outgrowing them. Besides, I am old now, and old people are allowed to be eccentric---not only can I watch them any time I want (with or without the grandkids), I don't have to explain it OR apologize for it.
You know something? I love this stage of my life. I love having enough years under my belt to remember olden times and ancient rhymes, and to have memories to share. I hope you've enjoyed a few of mine.
May your days be merry and bright.Last edit by Joe V on Dec 5, '11
VivaLasViejas has '17' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psych'. From 'The Great Northwest'; 56 Years Old; Joined Sep '02; Posts: 25,714; Likes: 38,915.2Dec 13, '11 by rn/writerThank you, Marla, for such a sensory-laden time capsule.
It's hard to believe that A Charlie Brown Christmas is still going strong. And the Grinch, too. May Sparky and Karloff rest in peace.
I love the old hyms that don't get nearly enough airplay, even on the stations that start playing Christmas music a couple of days after Halloween. Don't think I'll ever get used to the juxtaposition of O Holy Night and Santa, Baby.
I want to hear We Three Kings; Away in a Manger; O Come, O Come, Emmanuel; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Hark, the Herald Angel Sings; The First Noel; Angels We Have Heard on High; O Come All Ye Faithful (in English and in Latin), and all the rest.
Guess I'll have to burn my own CD.
As for this bit about you being old, I don't buy it. Your bones may ache, but your heart still dances like an enchanted toddler.1Dec 14, '11 by VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN GuideAhhhh, Mir........you know me too well. :heartbeat
You also come from the same era and were shaped by the same times and events as I, and there will probably never be anything sweeter than the memories of Christmases long past for either of us. But you're right, the mix of holiday songs on the radio today is often jarring, and even rude.
I mean, they've got Bing Crosby doing "White Christmas" and Harry Belafonte singing "Mary's Boy Child", and then they follow it up with......"Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"?? Not that I necessarily mind the song about poor Grandma getting smashed on eggnog and reeling out the door to go find her meds only to be unceremoniously clobbered by Santa's team.......but could we at least put that one together with another lighthearted or amusing tune, rather than shatter the peaceful, reverent mood created by "Silent Night"?
Dang---I sound downright curmudgeonly, when what I really would rather be is sentimental. I can't help it. But I still love the mental imagery of a heart dancing like an enchanted child.1Jan 3, '12 by FLArnThank you, I don't feel so alone now. I swore if I heard 1 more beautiful Christmas hymn butchered by another "popular" singer trying to put "their spin" on it, I was going to rip the radio right out of my car! Thank goodness for CD's.0Jan 7, '12 by VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN GuideIsn't that the truth? Every celebrity with any pretense to musicality, their gardener, and their house cat seem compelled to put out at least one "Christmas" CD during the course of their careers. It never occurs to them that they stink on ice, or that maybe all of fourteen people in the entire country will pony up $20 bucks for the damned thing; it's enough for them that the radio stations will play their version of "Frosty the Snowman" 45,763 times between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.