A Little #Memoir #Music for a #Writer’s #Christmas

Christmas divides Bo and me in a few quirky ways. He’s all about the magic of Santa Claus, Spritz cookies in a rainbow of colors and sprinkles and chips made with his mother’s cookie press, Frank Sinatra crooning as he crumbles ginger snaps over a ham, bordered by mountains of peeled potatoes and veg and butter as he cooks the blazin’ jingle bells out of our kitchen.

For me, it’s all about the music, and that music has always started with a blast of Mannheim Steamroller at sunrise the day after Thanksgiving.

Amidst the groans and pillows thrown at the door to shut it, I could never stop smiling, because that music announced the Christmas decorations had been pulled down from the attic. It also warned us to keep out of the living room, for it was now littered with strings of lights Dad was determined to save, and branches for our ancient fake tree we so often managed to fill with action figures and plush animals before Dad gave up on those blasted replacement bulbs and got new sets.

Mom always helped with the ornaments as a precious vinyl played: Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. One song in particular could make her laugh no matter what had happened that day, and drew out the silly side we so rarely saw during a stressful school year. She even pulled this song out while my kids helped her decorate this year, and the four of them giggled and danced enough to shake the snowmen watching from her hutch.

For me, music ripples through memory and carries back the echoes of laughter past.

The insanity of Advent and Christmas preparations tossed baking aside as an impossibility. Did my brothers and I miss out? Oh heavens, no. What better gift for a pastor’s family than a plate of cookies/gingerbread house/cookie bars/brownies/anything sugary? Our screen porch would quickly fill with gifted treats from our congregations. We could have made whole meals off of cookies until Lent. 

For me, stepping onto the cold wood into a sugary kingdom of plastic wrap and frosting always carried a hope for a glimpse of snow. See, snow’s not a common visitor in Wisconsin during December. Lord knows why: we get it at Halloween, often at Thanksgiving, sometimes as late as Easter, but in my three and a half decades on this planet I can only remember a handful of white Christmases. So when snow falls, thickly and heavily, it is a true Christmas miracle.

Christmas Eve Night has always carried the most magic.

For me, we had no Santa–not because my parents were against Santa, but because it just wasn’t practical in our house: we always opened our gifts Christmas Eve night after all the services were over. When I was small, though, and living in a small hunter’s town in the North Woods, we’d visit Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to tell him what we wanted for Christmas.

No, I’m not making that up. No, I don’t know why renting a Santa suit and setting up a neat little booth was more difficult than constructing a giant puppet theater/stable with a great black sheet behind this giant, car-hood sized head of Rudolph with a red nose the size of a fist and a mouth that barely moved. (I sifted through all the photos in my house for an image, but alas.) I can’t remember much of those visits, but to this day my mother gives us a little something from Rudolph.

The magic of Christmas Eve night has always come with music.

After a day in itchy stockings and awkward dresses, sitting in church pews chanting “In those days Ceasar Augustus issued a decree,” running laps around the classroom while teachers stuffed us with Kool-Aid, cheese, and Hershey kisses only to go back into the church for another round of “that a census should be taken of the enTIRE ROMAN world,” fighting off the other kids for your coat and those aren’t my mittens Mommy someone’s got my right boot…after getting a ride home with Grandma and Grandpa and stepping into the house because Mom and Dad have one more candlelight service at church:

The door opens to the Christmas tree, glowing with thousands of lights. The whole house smells of chili and spiced apples from the kitchen, simmering all afternoon. The Advent wreath candles glow upon the table laden with Great-Grandma’s china and crystal.

And music: Dad always has music, often choirs, singing softly all day long.

To enter twinkling lights, savory scents, and sweet harmonies brought Christmas’ magic to life in me and around me. Add Grandma’s laughter, Grandpa’s turns on the piano, the long-awaited sound of the garage that meant Mom and Dad are home and at last, long last, it’s time for presents and sweets late into the night…

Music always flows around us, but its power heightens with Christmas. May the sounds of the season enchant your Christmas, wherever you may be.





37 thoughts on “A Little #Memoir #Music for a #Writer’s #Christmas

  1. Christmas often reminds me of TV for reasons unknown. However, I’m glad you posted today as I have been trying to keep the new Agatha ‘Crooked House’ alive in this mangled mind. I know you are a great fan. Glen Close (excellent performance) aside, it is a very poor production. If you do find it on a TV near you over Christmas then ‘be warned’! That aside, you all have the finest ever Christmas.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha! I’ll do my best to avoid her, though this does touch on another talk with Bo I want to do about cinema and its determination to make every protagonist save the day, whereas some protagonists are written to fall to the dark side.
      In case I don’t have the chance later, a most blessed Christmas to you and your family, Dear Friend. I think of you and Shirl and George often. Hopefully those grandkids don’t make the holiday too chaotic for you! xxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Notwithstanding the beliefs of anyone – I respect them all – Christmas, for the main part these days, is for kids. Enjoy massively. I truly hope yours is a best ever one. For my part, please don’t let it rain on Christmas morning…it’ll ruin our plans for The White Cliffs…a hellish step walk upward and upward!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yowza, freezing rain is the worst! I am hoping for a White Christmas–the snow shall supposedly come today, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I’ll pray your Christmas sojourn is both dry and beautiful. For our part, I am excited for Christmas Eve. πŸ™‚ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sending you all my loveπŸ’“, lots of inspiring music 🎼 and a sense of renewal 🌟, my dear friend. Someday we’ll meet and drink the BEST coffee together (of course it shall be coffee that’s fit for an Empress & a Princess, of course!!!!) Until then, I’ll be thankful this mysterious blogosphere has brought such a magnificent kindred spirit into my life! β˜•οΈπŸ’–

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaw, you’ve turned my heart squishy! Yes, let’s have that royal coffee with royal cups bedecked with fancy lettering: “Empress” & “Princess.” And we’ll have scones with gooey marmalade in front of a window trimmed by the frost fairies.
      A beautiful Christmas to you, dearest kindred spirit! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you introduced me to Manheim Steamroller- I found a new Manheim Steamroller cd in the $5 bin at Walmart this year, and bought it, thinking of you! It was a win πŸ˜‰
    Thanks for sharing your memories and your music! I hope you an yours had a blessed and snowy Christmas! We got snow Christmas Eve, which NEVER happens- it was gorgeous, the lights off in church and all of the candles lit for ‘Silent Night’ with snowfall outside, like the ending of a cheesy Christmas musical πŸ™‚
    Hugs to you and yours!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh that’s so beautiful! We had snow on Christmas Eve, too, turning the landscape into wee white cyclones. πŸ™‚ The kids love any Manheim Steamroller songs with drums–no medieval tunes allowed, the little turds. πŸ˜‰ xxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: #lessonslearned from #AgathaChristie: #Write #ChristmasTraditions with a #Sinister Flair for some Wickedly Fun #Seasonal #Storytelling | Jean Lee's World

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