Christmas Music

For almost all my life, I’ve been the person who turned the music on. As a girl, growing up, music was played much more often once I figured out how to make it go. I still remember fondly all 6 of the CDs we owned, seared into my hind-mind as they are. When I graduated, I secretly absconded with all my favorite CDs. (Note to parents everywhere: check what your kid packs to college, especially when they’re going 3000 miles away and will never ever actually return with their possessions.) The music and NPR always played in my dorm room, eventually joined by baseball broadcasts. In my own home, I have complete ownership over the sound system. If it’s on, chances are over 90% it’s because I turned them on.

So it’s interesting to notice my sons gradually taking control over their own soundscape. Each has a CD player in their room. Grey is vert interested in what it plays, and will make careful choices among his handful of CDs. He loves Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, but thinks Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is too scary. And he’s started to form his own opinions about what he likes, what he wants to listen to. I’m sure there will be a moment in the future when I have to compromise the music played in our public space. I’m hoping to avoid sharing as long as possible, however, because my music is better. Ahem.

Anyway, this year for the first time, Grey has a favorite Christmas carol. What do you think it is? Maybe Rudolf? Grey went Christmas carolling with the church group this year (as our official bell-ringer – he refused to sing) and Rudolf was his request, but no. It’s not a kid’s song. Perhaps the Carol of the Bells on the traditional side? Or Joy To the World? Or “Darcy the Dragon” which is MY favorite Christmas song? (Kind of.)

Nope. Grey’s favorite Christmas song is The Kingston Trio’s Mary Mild, from the Last Month of the Year. It is such a joy to see him decide this on his own. While that song is certainly in heavy circulation (“The Last Month of the Year” is my husband’s favorite Christmas album), that song isn’t in my top 50 list. I’d hardly paid much attention to it, other than pondering its apocryphal origins. But he loves it. He sings it. He requests it at night time.

I know that my choices create the soundscape in which my sons grow up. They seem so young, so clearly under my purview. But already, they love things that I like. They notice things that escaped my notice. They hear things with fresh ears and reach different conclusions. I have set the foundations, but the house they build upon it will be all theirs.

“Go up the hill,” His mother said, “and there you will find three jolly children.
But let me hear no complaint of You when You come home again.”

Christmas was coming and Darcy the Dragon was thinking…

I love Christmas. This is probably not a shocking admission. Heck, you probably love Christmas too. There are people who, for various reasons, do not like Christmas. They are a minority.

Grey did not scream at Santa
Grey did not scream at Santa

My very absolute favorite part of Christmas is the Christmas music. Music is intensely evocative to me and holds the flavor of a moment even if I listen to it often. In this case, Roger Whittaker’s Christmas Album (specifically Darcy the Dragon) transports me magically back to a golden stage of childhood when the trees were 12 feet tall (no really), the packages under the tree held unutterable delights, we made Christmas cookies, and the weather cooperated and provided snow. There’s a flurry of light and darkness, sweet scents and spicy, excitement and peace all wrapped up into a gift of memory.

When I turn on the Christmas music, it transports my daily passage of life into a memory to be created, and reminds me that we are in the special time, the time apart.

Tonight I will bring out the Advent calendar that I bought last year to help Grey count down the days. In the past twelve months he’s learned about seasons, months, holidays and repetitions. Of course, he still doesn’t QUITE understand how it all works, but I think the count-down will be very meaningful to him.

This weekend, we will go get our tree and decorate. (I would have done it this weekend, but I was completely exhausted from keeping Thane out of trouble in our normal, reasonably childproofed house. Add in a Christmas tree, and he might never get out of his high chair again.) Grey will be feverish with delight, and with the candy canes, hot cocoa and Christmas cookies I plan to ply him with. The UPS guy will renew his “nightly stop” status. I’ve already begun my Christmas cards, and if all goes really well they might get mailed out as early as next week. (Really, really well. OK, probably the week after.) I love the Christmas cards because I sit and I really think about the person I know and love at the other end. It’s like a prayer, or meditation of love to write the cards. (By the way, Grey has started noticing that he doesn’t get any mail. If any of you are planning on sending us a card, Grey would LOVE it if the card was addressed to him!)

I also save up my “sick time” each year — usually nearly a week. If no one gets sick (and we’re disgustingly healthy) then I take a day a week off for the month of December. So tomorrow I am taking off. No real plans, but to enjoy myself and the season.

And of course the Christmas tableau! I won’t be playing the part of Mary this year, and I do not have a baby to offer up as the Christ child (both my sons — October babies — served in that role). But I’ll play my trumpet and there will be light and darkness and children and songs.

The older I get, the less the stuff of Christmas matters. I get so much joy out of buying presents for the small people in my life, I really don’t covet much for myself anymore. (In fact, for Christmas this year I’m requesting donations to Path International.) I’m sure my 4 year old son doesn’t feel that way. I didn’t at four, or fourteen for that matter.

Perhaps the greatest gift of Christmas with children is wondering how this will all play out in their minds and memories. I remember the cardboard fireplace my parents put up the year I was four. I remember the cabbage patch play set I got the year my brother was born. There are so many glimmering, golden memories of anticipation and delight. I can only hope that my sons’ memories are as full of Christmas goodness when they set about celebrating with their own children some day.