Hal Kemp, A Boy, A Girl, A Lamplight
There must be a lobe of my brain dedicated to song lyrics. I may not remember where I parked the car at Costco, but I know all four verses of Joy to the World. Obscure tunes from the 1940s, like A Boy, A Girl, A Lamplight, roll off my tongue like the Pledge of Allegiance and right now, I could belt out the chorus of Ragtime Cowboy Joe (I used to know the verses, but they’re lost in Costco’s parking lot.)
I know Muth had a collection of 45 records she played during the day and that Daddy listened to big band concerts on our RCA Victor console radio at night. As a pre-teen, I sat as close as I could to Nikki’s bedroom, leaning up against her slammed door listening to Elvis, Jerry Vale, and Peggy Lee coming from her transistor radio, until she yelled, “Mom, make her get away from my room!”
This twisted talent comes in handy at Christmas parties. Want to sing Frosty the Snowman, Up on the Housetop, Winter Wonderland? I’m your man. My preference, however, is for wistful, almost sad, holiday tunes about blue snowflakes, merry little Christmases, skating away on a river, gleaming love lights, and little drummer boys par um pa pum pum.
Nostalgia is always present at Christmas. Commercials with Marines returning home, children gazing out the window, and Clydesdales trotting proudly through snowy fields are as likely as jingle bells and ho ho hos. Maybe the yearning is for past Christmases or Christmases that never were, but for every play of Holly Jolly Burl Ives, there’s dewey-eyed Judy Garland and the dreaming crooner, Bing Crosby.
For my money, the most wistful Christmas sound comes from Vince Guaraldi’s music in A Charlie Brown Christmas. I challenge any holiday humbug to sit through this without at least one misty eye episode.
Here’s one for “poor lonely people.” I Wonder As I Wander, The Cambridge Singers
New favorite, Sufjan Stevens Sister Winter
Can’t seem to leave this one out—what’s not to love; this year we’ll listen to Sarah Mclachlan’s version. When I was a kid in Nebraska, the creek behind our house froze solid (we hoped) in the winter. All the neighborhood kids skated up and down the creek until spring, when the ice started to crack. The high school boys built roaring bonfires along the way to keep us all warm. Ah, those were the days. I’m not kidding, those frozen river shots in the video must have been taken along our creek.
River, Sarah Mclachlan
So turn off your device, turn on the Christmas tree, snuggle the baby, gather the near and dears, throw a cashmere wrap or cotton quilt over your collective knees, warm your hands around a mug of cocoa, listen to Christmas songs, and watch the day fade away.
This recipe must be good, I copied it off the back of a C&H sugar sack. We used to help Muth make Christmas cookies: snowmen, evergreen trees, snowflakes, candy canes. You could always tell the ones we made, they were grayish, with too many sprinkles and too much pink frosting.