blank'/> Mirth, Melancholy, and the Mundane: December 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Whatmas?

This is not a blog about the name of the holiday, despite the title.  That’s a can of worms that I have little desire to open.  People should say what their hearts tell them to say and the listeners should accept the messages for what they are – heartfelt wishes for happiness.

No, this blog is a continuation of one I did last year.  Sometime around now, I wrote a blog about lyrics to Christmas songs that made me do a double-take for whatever reason.  I over-think them because I spend so much time listening to carols at this time of the year.  It’s soothing and familiar in a time when the stacks of work seem insurmountable.  And yet, I spend valuable energy analyzing lyrics.  Go figure.

This year, I have a new list.

“Bells Will Be Ringing” – this bluesy little song is a tribute to all the folks who are alone or who are separated from their loved ones.  Something worth addressing, as it reflects that not all of us are surrounded by love and warm memories at this time of year.  I talked about it last year because of the rapid turnaround of friends that the singer has, but this time I’m focusing on another line.  The lyric that gets me is ‘Oh, what a Christmas to have the blues’.  What bothers me is that it implies that there is something special about THIS Christmas that makes it harder to have the blues.  I would think that ANY Christmas is a bad one to have the blues.  It’s the equivalent of “Of all the days to have a flat tire…” – except it’s marking one Christmas as different from all the others with no particular reason why.

I told you I think too much.

“Mary Did You Know” – this one is a list of questions for Mary, mother of Christ.  The singer wants to know if she was aware of all the amazing things her son would do when he grew up a bit as she held his tiny form shortly after his birth.  My logical mind says – I would think she knew SOMETHING, seeing as how angels came down and told her about the baby and who he was…and the whole virgin birth thing.  I would imagine she kind of knew her baby was special.  Then again, don’t all mothers know their babies are special?

“My Favorite Things” – why is this a Christmas song?  Other than “snowflakes that stay on your nose and eyelashes” and “silver white winters that melt into springs,” I’m not really sure what makes it a holiday song.  In fact, in the sound of Music, Maria sings it to the children to comfort them during a thunderstorm.  That’s what I think of when I hear the song, and it’s always felt a little off to only hear it at Christmas.  That said, however, I would LOVE some “crisp apple strudel.”

In this year’s Faintly Disturbing category (last year held firmly by “Baby It’s Cold Outside”) is the Jackson Five’s version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”  From what we know of Joe Jackson, it frightens me to think about little Michael going to tell his father ANYTHING even remotely controversial.   And then the rest of the boys tell Michael to “shut up” in a holiday spirit and loving fashion.  Talk about tainting a cute little song, huh?

“It’s beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is a catchy little song that celebrates the snow and the bluster and joy that comes when the snow falls and the lights come on (those magic Christmas lights that you never see anyone put up).  The line that is interesting to me is the one where the singer talks about the tree in the park and the Grand Hotel.  What amuses me is that the tree in the park is described as ‘the sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow’ - pray tell, what pine trees AREN'T sturdy?  They are, after all, evergreen.

I’m not even going to get into the slew of songs that make me cry EVERY SINGLE TIME.  Something about shoes, something about harps, something about someone missing.  Oof.

Maybe next time I’ll write about the songs I truly love and why I love them.  The magic and joy of Christmas.  I’m not as cynical and bitter as I perhaps sound.  I adore this season with all of my ample heart.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Shoes...

Yesterday afternoon, when my long day of conferences had ended itself satisfactorily, I headed to the mall to run an errand or two. I wanted to exchange a shirt J had gotten for his birthday (he is just “& Tall” without the “Big” part and that can make sizing interesting) and I wanted to get the gifts for the Angel I took off the Angel Tree at school. It’s not often I get to shop for a little girl and it seemed like a nice soothing way to spend an hour or two. Down time.

I wandered around looking at all sorts of things and ended up picking two pants and jacket sets that were made of the same kind of fuzzy material as my favorite blankets. I also found a stuffed Clarice from Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer – complete with the little bow on her ear. When I took my items up to the cash register, I struck up a conversation with the young lady who was ringing up my purchases. It was the sort of throw-away conversation we often have in such situations. She commented on how one of the fuzzy outfits was adorable and I agreed, adding that it also looked warm and cozy. I said that if the little girl was poor, she could probably use some warm clothes. And I explained who I was buying for and why. She nodded and made sympathetic noises. Up until that point, it was just the sort of casual conversation you have with the people who briefly pass into your life as you briefly pass into theirs.

Except then it wasn’t anymore.

She mentioned that a school had asked if she would like to be ON their tree and she declined. She said that they were on Food Stamps, but they weren’t poor, they just needed a little help. She wanted to save the space on the Tree for the people who really needed it. Then she smiled a little and said “I’ve got three boys, see.” All the while, her hands were moving, folding little clothes and ringing up my sale. That casual moment of small-talk politeness turned into a heart-felt conversation about the necessity of helping those who are less fortunate that we are and, then, in a moment or two, I was walking away, her attention already diverted to a woman who kept saying “boys slippers?” in the middle of our transaction. I was still thinking about her words as I made my way out into the chill air and on to a hot meal and a warm house. I just kept thinking about how she didn’t want to take more than she needed, and all she needed was a little help.

So many of us could learn from this woman’s quiet wisdom. She seemed to think nothing of discussing with a stranger that she is careful to not take more than she needs, even as she is clearly working hard to make life better for her three boys. Her simple statement of appreciation for what she has is something that I wish everyone would stop and realize about their own lives. We should all look at life this way – acknowledging blessings, being thankful, taking only what we need, helping those who have it worse. We should all strive to create a world where this conversation wouldn’t be so remarkable. We can do this – we can start with our own hearts, start by being generous, being kind, being helpful, being humble, being joyful, and being thankful. We can make the world a better place.

We just need a little help.