Christmas 2021
©2021, George J. Irwin. All rights reserved.

December 25, 2021...

As happens frequently when I do not need to be awake for anything in particular, I am up before the sunrise.

I am sitting for a moment in the living room that has our Christmas Tree displayed in the window for passers-by to see. I have left the lights on all night, as I like to do this close to Christmas. While most of the world quickly transitions to post-Christmas later today, this tree will stay up until The Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Little Christmas, or just January 6. It's just four pieces to be inserted into each other, plus the angel tree topper, so much simpler than the artificial tree of my youth, which consisted of dozens of branches with different colors painted on the ends which had to be placed in holes in the "trunk." It was an exercise in frustration especially in later years as the paint wore off. Instead of wrestling with strings of lights, this one came "pre-lit" and we can choose between white and multi-colored lights at the touch of a button. The only real work, if you can call it that, is to choose from our collection of ornaments. To those who would rather have a real Christmas tree, I respect their decision and appreciate the work they go through to have one. But we have an immense pine in the center of our backyard, which is home to some of our resident squirrels all year round. It is so tall that the branches don't begin until well past my height. We have not measured it but it is probably at least sixty feet tall and forty feet in diameter, and it is strong and healthy.

All is calm, but all is not particularly bright yet, and it likely won't be today, as the forecast calls for rain. The White Christmas was washed away overnight, but that's alright. We'll have plenty of snow soon enough.

I find myself thinking of a song that does not come to mind as often during this season as more favorite Christmas songs: "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." The first version I remember of this song is, believe it or not, from the album Christmas with the Chipmunks Volume Two, released in 1963. No, it's not "sung" by The Chipmunks, which is to say the triple-tracked speeded-up voice of Ross Bagdasarian, better known as David Seville. Instead, it's sung by Seville in his natural voice, preceded by him saying, "I want to say something to you, and to all the children listening." It wasn't until many years later that I learned that the original version was from the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis and it was not exactly uplifting. By 1963 a key lyric had been changed from "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough" – a change credited to a request by Frank Sinatra. That is the version Seville sings. There were other modifications to the song after it was first written, but this is the one I think of as I sit in the living room.

It makes the song more positive, which is what I would like at this moment. It is the kind of feeling I would rather have.

Later, I will make selections from the Christmas songs that populate the computer software program to which I have "ripped" them from compact discs, or purchased online. Not everything from my collection has made it to this computer but I still have more than enough to choose from, including the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas which remains timeless fifty-seven years after it was first broadcast. When I was at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California, I remarked to a docent there that the creator of Peanuts could have done nothing else but that television special with his cast and crew—and of course the jazz artist Vince Guaraldi—and he would be immortal for just that. And I will have other selections playing, from David Foster and Russ Freeman and a new age "group" called Music 2000, and from Glass Tiger whose album Songs For A Winter's Night is the latest addition to the hard copy collection, and a version of Vince Guaraldi's legendary "Linus and Lucy" by saxophonist Euge Groove that interpolates a riff on Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" and works brilliantly. I have been listening to this music since the day after Thanksgiving, and unlike radio stations which now compete with each other to be the first to “flip” I will keep playing these songs as long as the Christmas tree is up. The likely last song I will play before putting the songs away until next Christmas is Kenny Rogers' version of "Til The Season Comes Round Again."

Soon my wife will be awake and we will have a quiet day. We keep things simple in terms of gifts and we have already exchanged them on Christmas Eve, or as we put it, It's Already Christmas In Australia. Perhaps the best gift we can give each other is just that: a quiet day. Just outside the living room there are troubles ranging from the petty to the existential; but for a few minutes I will just sit and contemplate our tree.

Merry Christmas.