When I was little, we were not allowed to wake our parents on Christmas morning. This only made sense, because we always got up very early that day--the intense excitement wouldn't let us sleep. We were not allowed to go downstairs and look at the presents. We were supposed to stay upstairs. So we would gather in one of the bedrooms--all curly-headed and flannel-pajama-clad, happy moppets, not yet rebellious or surly--and sing Christmas carols until our parents woke up. Which was probably pretty quickly, considering that we were a choir of ten.
Dashing through the snow.
Joy to the world.
We knew a million of them, thanks to the nonstop playing since Thanksgiving of the six Mormon Tabernacle Choir records that we owned. They weren't known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in our house; they were just known, generically, as "Christmas music," as though there was no other. And there was a moratorium on those records; no Christmas music until Thanksgiving is over. Now that I'm older and less tolerant, I understand this was a futile attempt to preserve my parents' sanity. But back then, I thought it was a tough, tough rule.
It was years and years and years before I thought any other music could possibly be Christmassy. Doug would play jazzy Christmas, or bluesy Christmas, or country Christmas, or rock and roll Christmas, or Celtic Christmas, or even choral Christmas but with a different choir, and I would roll my eyes.
People would tell me that "Rockin' around the Christmas tree" was their favorite Christmas song, and I would roll my eyes.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir would come out with a new arrangement of "Bring Your Torches, Jeanette, Isabella," and I would roll my eyes. It had to be the music from those six original albums that my family owned back in 1962.
I am not so rigid now. It still takes the Mormons to flood me with Christmas spirit, but I can also get into decorating the tree or wrapping presents or making cookies while listening to Elvis or Harry Connick or Aretha Franklin. So on Christmas Eve night, Doug's family will come over. We'll light the tree lights, and maybe a few candles. We'll put on some music--maybe country Christmas, for Doug's sister. We'll open a few presents, eat a few meatballs, eat a lot of cookies.
The boys will stare with great interest, and great longing, at their stockings.
Later, we'll listen to Dylan Thomas reading "A Child's Christmas in Wales," as I have nearly every Christmas since I was a baby. The hiss and pop of the old record is a comforting sound in the candlelit dark. And then--oh, I'll let Thomas say it: "I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept."
Merry Christmas to you all.
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