Saturday, December 24, 2011

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Our Christmas Tree 2011
Yesterday while I was reading an article about John Rutter, I started to feel a bit of the Christmas spirit.  I must confess that so far this year I have not felt much like celebrating. Christmas has become a bit of a roller coaster. Two years ago I was in the hospital recovering from major surgery, requiring an emergency blood transfusion.  I was starting my cancer odyssey, a journey on which I still travel having just finished another cycle of chemotherapy.  Last year, I was in remission and feeling wonderful to be home for the holidays with my family.

This year, I am missing my son and grandson who just left to return to Micronesia to spend Christmas with my daughter in law and granddaughter.  My daughter and her boyfriend are here, having overlapped with my son and grandson for a few days so we could at least have Christmas 1.0 together last Sunday.   The tree was delivered last Saturday, a bit late and not as nice as the one I got last year, so I felt a bit disappointed.  However, my son stayed up most of the night decorating it and wrapping presents by himself.  It reminded me of the many times I was up into the wee hours, either alone or with my husband, wrapping presents and putting them under the tree.

So it is no surprise that this morning I was flooded with memories of Christmas Eves past.  One year my husband and I spent a chunk of Christmas eve in our local mall picking up last minute gifts because we felt we had not gotten enough for people.  Our children were teenagers at the time and I remember buying overpriced jeans for my daughter just to see the look on her face when she got something so unexpected.  Unfortunately, this year, given our finances, I will have to be satisfied with her adult gratitude, as a poor college student, for anything we get for her.

On another Christmas Eve,  my husband and I found ourselves without a Christmas tree.  We drove all over looking for one, either real or artificial, but kept coming up with nothing.  After a few hours, we found a small lot with a handful of trees left and got a reasonably decent looking tree, thereby salvaging our tradition.

Of course, we had one Christmas Eve like the one in the Jingle All the Way, although not quite as extreme.  Let's just say that someone in this family beat out another parent trying to get the last Teddy Ruxpin in Toys R Us on Christmas Eve.  Our son, then 3 years old, was one happy boy on Christmas morning.

I also, for many years, sent out what I hoped was a funny Christmas letter to friends and family, with a picture of our family.  The last time I did that was about 6 years ago when my grandson was a baby.  These days we don't get many cards anymore at home, and at work I get as many e-cards as I do paper cards.  I wish I could still write a funny letter.  I had an excuse during the years when things were not going so well but this year I have plenty of good things to report.  My daughter has a 4.0 grade point average her first semester at UC Berkeley.  My son is off in Micronesia with his beautiful family, including my grandson and 2 year old granddaughter, after spending two months here with us to be treated for back problems.  He is applying to masters programs for next year.  My husband and I are both in remission from cancer and trying to live life to the fullest.  My mother in law, who still lives us, is puttering along at 86 and my son's sister in law, who also lives with us, is finishing a medical assistant training program which will hopefully allow her to get a job next year.  All good things, but my days of sending out cards are over, just like my days of going to midnight mass and feeling the need to dress up for most occasions.  "When I am an old woman, I shall wear yoga pants and t-shirts, although not in purple"  (apologies to Jenny Joseph)

John Rutter told the reporter, in the article referenced above, that the World War Two song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas "encapsulates the aching nostalgia of separated families and treads the fine line between happiness and heartbreak, which is what being human is all about." Perhaps not so surprising after all that this song should put me finally in the Christmas spirit.

ADDENDUM  The original song was apparently quite depressing.  Judy Garland performed  a slightly more positive version in the motion picture Meet Me in St. Louis, and this version was popular during WWII.  Frank Sinatra asked the songwriter to make the song more "jolly" for his version, which is the one we now hear the most.

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