It was Friday, and I was stressed. Having had one coffee too many, I was frantically wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to use the last few hours I had left in the day to the best of my advantage.
Then I heard Ella Fitzgerald’s “Sleigh Ride” softly playing from a desk nearby, and was transcended. My frustration and anxiety waned. I felt comforted by the familiar verses that reminded me where I came from, and who I was. And in my mind, I was home.
In that moment, I realized Christmas music at home may well be one of the most uplifting sounds I’ve ever heard (with the exception of anything Sigur Ros puts out there — that shit is golden.) I love hearing the upbeat piano bursting through the speakers and seeping into the air, as Charlie Brown’s Christmas music album moves along. It always leaves a heavy cloud of nostalgia that hangs around long after the last chord has faded.
Hearing classic Christmas gems, from Ella to Elvis, takes me back — to our wood stove, our stocking-laden mantle, our well-lit tree and the instrument that rings in the holiday season, the piece de resistance, our baby grand. My grandfather had the legs of my this beaut replaced after a hurricane whipped through Florida, and shipped the treasure up to our house when I was 10 or so. (As I seem to recall, the Sauer family’s two youngest musicians-in-residence could not have been happier.) Gosh I miss playing the piano.
Even the more contemporary stuff like my Indie Holiday mix (suggested by Pandora, so you don’t think I’m too lame) or Sufjan Stevens’s Songs of Christmas remind me of the odd but cheery holiday memories we’ve adopted as adults, like the time me and my brother insisted we get a Christmas tree from a nearby farm and wound up back at the house with a wimpy choice, caked in mud. So what if we were all grown up and it was already dark on Christmas Eve? Tradition is important.
I’ve missed loving Christmas, and the memories that come with it. And this year, I’m happy to report that it’s not that the magic is gone. It’s been there all along. It’s just that somehow as I’ve aged, I’ve neglected to realize that the bright lights and cheery songs are more special because of the time and effort families have put into them.
As the cast of “Community” knows (see the video below), Christmas is more of a feeling than anything else.It’s something we need to allow ourselves to believe in, because when we do, we wind up creating those magic moments for each other. It’s the meaning we give the season that matters more than anything else. So what are we waiting for? Let’s celebrate this cold, chilly season we’re so good at attributing meaning to, and have ourselves a jolly old time with the people we love.