Saturday, November 16, 2013

Old Music and the Things it Stirs

Today, I heard a Christmas song that I have not heard in easily twenty years.  It’s a song by a Christian artist, one from my deep, dark, born-again past.  Not a time of my life I remember fondly or pine for.  Or so I thought. 

I was shocked that my eyes stung with tears when I heard that song.  As a musical being, I couldn’t help but surround myself with the “allowed” forms thereof during my short stint as a bible thumping Christian.   It has been a long time since I’ve heard any of that music, but at one time, I owned and played a lot of it.  And when you hear a song that you used to listen to all the time and then just…stopped, you are suddenly transported to that moment in your past.

The eighties.  But the memories that mist my eyes are not memories of the church or the other congregants or the endless activities associated with any Christian holiday—pot lucks, prayer groups, children’s events, song services.  No…what I see is 1980’s snapshots of my family.  Family who were around then,  who aren’t around now.  A grown family--featuring little satellite families of their own--who nevertheless couldn't get enough of each other during the holidays: We'd go out in the woods and cut Christmas trees for three households, decorating them all in one weekend; pile in the car to drive through the neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights; gather around my parents' dining room table and play cards on New Year’s Eve.

Back to that song that brought on the tears...  The song itself is one of those sappy tear-jerkers; the lyrics tell of a woman who lives all alone with no family around for Christmas. 

Remembering Christmas the way it had been
So many seasons ago
When the children would reach for their stockings
And open the presents they found
The lights on the tree would shine bright in their eyes
Reflecting the love all around
But this year there’s no one to open the gifts
No reason for trimming the tree…  

Now, my life is not like that.  Not like that at all.  I certainly trim plenty of trees, anyway…

But in some sense, maybe my life IS like that.  I see those children (I was one of them) reaching for stockings and opening presents, and I remember those lights on the tree and the tinsel and the warmth and the chaos, opening presents in the dark of Christmas morning because we just couldn’t wait any longer.

SO many seasons ago.  So far in the past, it almost seems like an old movie.  And yet, I still feel so keenly the absence of that little group of people crowded into that tiny living room with the big tree and all those presents.  Perhaps...not so long ago after all.

I realized today, listening to that song, that all the things I try to pack into the holiday season, now—the concerts and the bazaars and the plays and the events…they’re all just…fill.  The new and the different, painstakingly researched and lined up in an effort to craft an acceptably jolly holiday season.  Keeping myself so entertained that I don’t have time…

To shed tears over the people and the scenes from my distant past that were part and parcel of Christmas to me, and that I miss too much to even allow myself to go there.  

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