But yeah, I still love Christmas music. Part of the reason--maybe most of the reason--is that connection I still feel with my inner child, with memories of family Christmases, holiday meals, festive TV specials, Miracle On 34th Street, It's A Wonderful Life, my Aunt Mary's cookies, decorations, lights, and the promise of peace on Earth, good will toward all. Plus presents. Pretty, pretty presents! As a Dad, all of those memories are reinforced by the happy warmth of watching my daughter grow up before my eyes. Sure, she's an all-grown-up young adult now, 21 years old, a senior in college, and a world traveler; but I still remember the delight of seeing this little, little girl at Christmas, eyes aglow with mirth and wonder, asking Santa for a saxophone--Santa trudged up and down the mall that year, looking for and finally locating a little toy saxophone to place under the tree--leaving a plate of cookies for Saint Nick and food for his reindeer, and waking up on Christmas morning to investigate all of those packages that magically appeared in our living room overnight. Meghan was far more patient on Christmas than I was as a kid, but she enjoyed Christmas as much as anyone did. As she grew a little bit older, she always made sure to hang her ballerina ornament next to my Batman ornament on the tree, developing a mental scenario of Batman rescuing the ballerina from peril (or perhaps vice versa). Christmas was a transcendent, joyful time together.
Things changed over time. We still observed our rituals. Every Christmas Eve, I would get home from work in time for Christmas Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Cicero, followed by dinner at an Asian buffet, and a trip to Lights On The Lake, Syracuse's annual display of bright holiday lights along Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool. On Christmas Day, lovely wife Brenda would prepare an irresistible meal of pork roast, noodle kugel, corn casserole, and sweet potatoes, and my parents would join us for Christmas dinner. My Dad passed in 2012, but Mom still joins us, and it is still a cherished time spent together. Meghan has participated and even enjoyed all of this, while still preferring to keep Christmas at arm's length.
But this year, when Meghan was home from school for Thanksgiving break, I received a text from Brenda while I was at work on Black Friday: Meghan wants to know if it would be okay to put up the Christmas tree tonight?
In my 56 years, I may not have ever agreed to anything faster than I agreed to that.
By the time I arrived home, Brenda and Meghan had already set up the tree itself. We have always had artificial trees; my Mom and Dad bought our first artificial tree at W.T. Grants department store in 1970 or '71, so I shook off any santamental attachment to real wood and pine needles decades ago. After dinner, Brenda and Meghan had me string the lights and the Star Of David garland around the tree, and I sat back to watch them add the decorations.
|Note electric menorah on the tree--we ARE the world!|
And I felt that warmth still inside of me. Maybe my eyes started to sting--just a little--but it was due more to gratitude and love than it was to sorrow or regret. The ache of loss never goes away, and it never will go away. But love doesn't go away either. The affection of family and friends, the ties that bind, are the essential, irreplaceable things that sustain us when we can't even imagine a path forward. That is why we embrace; it's why we sing, why we dance, why we laugh, and, yes, why we cry. It is what completes us when we feel irrevocably incomplete.
This is not at all what I meant to write today; this was supposed to be about some of my favorite Christmas music, but I guess we'll cover that tomorrow instead. In doing a daily blog, I've discovered that sometimes the fingers will write what the fingers want to write, and it's best not to get in their way. For now, I look forward once again to Christmas Eve, and our fresh communions with Sacred Heart's chorus singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," a plate of sesame chicken and lo mein noodles, and the bright lights shining upon Onondaga Lake as Christmas music plays on my car radio. I'm sure that Meghan will still shrug away the music, but I'm equally sure the glow will still be there, inside her. We'll have the brightest Christmas. And we'll all have each other, for as long as God will bless us, every one.
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