Merry Little Christmas

by | Dec 9, 2013 | Memoir, Musings, Relationships | 12 comments

This is a different sort of Life As a Wife episode.

Merry Little Christmas
By Laura McHale Holland

We hauled all of our Christmas paraphernalia down from the garage several days ago, but the boxes sat unopened in the family room until yesterday morning, when I decided to surprise Jim by putting the tree up before he awoke.

I was stringing blinking lights around the tree when he walked in, big smile on his face. He likes blinkers; I don’t particularly. The last several years, I’ve had my way: nice steady lights. This year I decided to do it his way: alternating blinkers top to bottom.

Jim sorted through some CDs, put one on. Soon James Taylor’s voice filled the room. Taylor’s renditions of “Winter Wonderland,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Jingle Bells” and other favorites set a warm, festive mood. I continued to fiddle with the lights and then sort through ornaments, garlands and knick knacks. Then “The Christmas Song” came on. It’s the one with the line, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” The words and melody gripped memy eyes filled, tears spilled. I was surprised. Jim bought the CD last year, and the song hadn’t made me cry.

GD ornamentJim’s response? He said to Romeo, one of our dogs, “Uh, oh, the waterworks; it’s time for us to go, fella.” I shook my head, thinking he was channeling John Wayne again—or maybe Humphrey Bogart since he’d just watched “Key Largo” the night before. He ambled toward the kitchen, the dog padding after him. When he returned, we hung the first ornaments: balls with Grateful Dead art on them, part of Jim’s assortment of the band’s memorabilia.

Jim had an errand to run. I decided to do some other chores—pay bills, do laundry, that sort of thing. I thought about “The Christmas Song” while I worked. I remembered that my father used to croon that one, along with many others. He would sing with everything he had, like the Welsh miners who harmonized throughout their days in the old film “How Green Was My Valley.” When my father was alive, my days were bursting with music, especially at Christmas. Then he died, and the holidays of my childhood grew quiet and bleak.

Later, I returned to the tree. I pulled out a box of golden orbs painted with a glittery holly pattern and checked to see whether they still had hangers attached. I didn’t notice that Jim was at the stereo until another voice filled the room: Robert Goulet singing, “If Ever I Would Leave You” from the Broadway soundtrack of Camelot.

Sometimes I think “If Ever I Would Leave You” is the best love song ever written. I always think of it as Jim’s and my song. Often, words of comfort aren’t Jim’s thing. Jokes and music are. He knows I lost my parents when I was far too young and that even though I am happy now, sometimes a song or movie or painting or remark will remind me of past times of sorrow. He realizes these memories are fleeting but that they shaped the person I’ve become. He also knows I know he’s never going to leave me as long as there is breath in his body.

I looked up. We smiled at each other. I thanked him for playing the song. He sashayed across the room and gave me a big hug. I told him I want to donate to a toy drive this year in addition to writing our year-end checks to the local food bank and a few other charities. We used to donate games, dolls, action figures and more when our children were growing up, but we haven’t done so lately. I know a toy won’t transform a grieving family into a thriving one, but it might provide at least a moment of happiness, something that could help tide a child over to another good moment, and another, and another until such time as there are far more good times than bad.

Jim, of course, said he’s all for it.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

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12 Comments

  1. tony pires

    Laura, very touching Christmas holiday moments.

  2. jerry

    Have yourself a very merry little Christmas.

  3. admin

    Thank you, Jerry. I wish the same for you. :o)

  4. admin

    Thank you, Tony. I appreciate your taking the time to let me know you were moved by this. All the best to you.

  5. Barbara Toboni

    Thanks for sharing your little moments between husband and wife. I got a little teary myself. Merry Holidays to you dear friend.

  6. admin

    Thank you for this note, Barbara. It is a little gift to me that I very much appreciate.

  7. Suz

    Well, my little Christmas elf, I listen to Amy Grant’s song, Heirlooms. Music of the season tends to make me melancholy. Our Christmases were generally horrible. Someone got disciplined and, of course the parental units drank for the day. Christmas songs? Pretty much none, but I loved going to S. Campbell’s house to have egg nog (spiced up with rum I think it was), : )

    I have new heirlooms now and many of them are actually people that includes you and re-connections with so many students and those in our HS class. That makes me happy. May you be blessed this Christmas with love and enough. You are loved.

    Suz

  8. admin

    Thank you, Suz, for sharing some of your experiences here. I think the kinds of things you describe are more common on holidays than most of us want to think, as are experiences like my own childhood losses. Some parents just aren’t capable of putting their own disappointments aside to be there for their children and help build them a solid foundation. It’s wonderful that you found support elsewhere and turned out to be such a wonderfully creative and loving person. I haven’t heard the Amy Grant song you mentioned. I’ll see if I can find it on Youtube. Thanks for the love, my friend. I’m sending a boatload back to you.

  9. Tanya Savko

    Such a very lovely post. I felt like I was right there in your living room as I read it. Nat King Cole’s Christmas album always makes me think of my dad : ) Wishing you a beautiful Christmas, Laura!

  10. admin

    Thank you, Tanya. It’s uplifting to hear from you and to know that you enjoyed my post. Your comment makes me want to listen to Nat King Cole’s Christmas album this year. Jim and I don’t have it, so I haven’t heard him sing in years, probably was at a long ago holiday party in San Francisco. I wish you a beautiful Christmas, too.

  11. Holly

    Saw your response to me on FB so I read your story again. And again it brought me to tears. We stay locked in our own little worlds most of the time so it is wonderful when a writer is so heartfelt and talented that we are tumbled into hers for a moment and can feel what she feels.

    Christmas for me while growing up was curiously joyous. I say curiously because our family had a rough time and it should have caused future Christmases to be fraught with sadness, depression, and unnamed anxiety. My family had financial difficulties; my parents were overwhelmed with the responsibilities for six children and their own limited inner resources and coping skills. But my mother loved holidays and loved to make great food for the holidays. As Christmas approached, she would sing all kinds of silly Christmas songs and take us out in the car at night to see the beautiful Christmas decorations in the more affluent neighborhoods. On Christmas Eve she had us so excited we could barely go to sleep, often waking at 3:00 a.m. and being told to go back to bed. Later Christmases were sometimes very sparse, as money was tight, and one Christmas was entirely gift-less, but the feeling of anticipation and joy remained high.

    I know many people who experience deep melancholy at Christmastime and I feel lucky to not be one of them. In turn, my own children love the holidays and we always look forward to seeing each other at those times.

    Thanks again for such a lovely slice of your life. It was truly delicious!

  12. admin

    Thank you for your heartfelt, eloquent, appreciative comment, Holly. I believe our experience of life has more to do with how we handle what comes our way than with the events themselves. Your story is an example. Some families under similar circumstances succumb to bitterness and woe. Mine certainly did when I was young. I’m so glad you had such a positive role model in your mother, something wonderful that you passed on to the next generation, who will pass it on to the next, and the next, and the next. It makes me feel so good to know that.

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