David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Christmas music”

Farewell, Christmas, Until September 1st (2013-12-27 Daily)

Okay, I couldn’t resist.  Enjoy!

FAREWELL, CHRISTMAS, UNTIL SEPTEMBER FIRST

by

David C. Hughes

Sigh . . . . Another Christmas come and gone, all too quickly.  The anticipation of the past three months now lingers in the air like the scent of mulled cider and freshly-baked banana bread.  Is it just me, or does Christmas day always seem so . . . anti-climactic?  One minute we’re sound asleep, next minute our kid is waking us up at 6:45 AM, long before the residual effects of Christmas Eve’s indulgences have slinked back into the recesses of my brain.  In preparation for this day we’ve hung lights, baked cookies, wrapped presents, watched Christmas shows, decorated the house, and hummed catchy Christmas songs for two or three months, then it’s all over in a flurry of torn paper and fulfilled wish lists.  For what seems like only a brief moment, Christmas Future handed the baton to Christmas Present, but, alas, at 12:00 midnight on December 26th, Christmas Present dutifully passed the baton to Christmas Past, morphing holiday moments into enduring memories.  I can still hear Jacob Marley’s chains rattling.  Or is it Hannah’s new Umbooly?  As I saw on a recent Facebook post, December 26th is the saddest day of the year.  Amen, sister . . . .

As I write this my head is still filled with Christmas songs, the residual music of 50 Christmases blending together and accompanying me wherever I go, like old friends: loyal, comforting, familiar.  As I rolled out of bed the morning after Christmas, Nat King Cole’s buttery voice slipped into the bathroom with me, the spirit of “The Christmas Song” still bringing a smile to my face as Christmas’ calendar page sloughed off the wall and revealed the 26th with the heaviness of time’s passing.  And even as I type these words, Nat faithfully belts out his rendition of the holiday classic in my head while 98.7 FM puts the Christmas CD collection back on the shelf in anticipation of the day after Halloween next year.  Hang in there, Mr. Cole, I’m still listening, even if it is on the ethereal soundwaves of Christmas memories.

Mary and I spent Christmas Eve making new memories as we watched holiday movies, played games with Hannah, and snuggled under the blankets of tradition steeped in the comfort of our friends from Beringer and Oak Leaf.  On Christmas Eve morning I extracted all the holiday-themed VHS tapes and DVDs, spread them across the corner of the entertainment unit, and told Hannah to pick what she wanted to watch.  We started out with “Very Merry Muppet Christmas,” transitioned into “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and climaxed the day with “A Christmas Story,” followed by the 2012 sequel “A Christmas Story 2.”  I hand-popped popcorn on the stove, and Mary honored my family’s tradition of abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve by whipping up white pasta with garlic sauce and shrimp scampi for dinner.  I built, lit, and stoked a fire in the fireplace, maintaining its warm glow throughout the day as we stayed in our pajamas, played Monopoly Junior, and wrapped ourselves in the warmth of the season.  And before we knew it, Hannah was in our bedroom at 6:45 Christmas morning . . . . Might as well have put a hammer in our Elf on the Shelf’s hands and told her to play Fix-It Felix on my head.  Ugh!

This year, for the first time, Santa Claus graced us with an Elf on the Shelf named Taylor McTuttle.  He dropped her off on the front porch the Sunday after Thanksgiving, rang the doorbell, and disappeared before Hannah could catch a glimpse of the jolly old man in the bright red suit dashing away back to the North Pole.  We welcomed Taylor, and enjoyed her mischief for the next three weeks.  And believe me, those things can get into a lot of mischief, especially since we own a well-stocked wine fridge.  She engaged Hannah in a long-running game of chess, making one move at a time each night after Hannah went to bed.  She ended up in the top of the Christmas tree, under the Christmas tree skirt, on top of Hannah’s bookcase, and trapped in one of the entertainment unit doors.  She made snow angels in a pile of white flour spread across the stove.  She fell head-first in an empty coffee cup after drinking all of the hot cocoa.  She captured and tied our dog Dot’s squeaky kitty to the back of a kitchen chair, then found herself hanging from the dining room ceiling fan piñata style, wrapped in a tangle of green yarn as kitty made a bit of mischief herself.  She even kidnapped Hannah’s Zelf, Angelina, and wadded her up in a ball of rubber bands and pipe cleaners.  Lesson learned: Zelfs encroaching on Elf on the Shelf territory will be duly hunted down, captured, and made the brunt of cruel jokes.

But amidst the fun of Taylor and Angelina’s turf battle, amongst the explosion of wrapping paper strewn across the living room floor on Christmas morning, in the middle of the baking, eating, and distributing holiday goodies to the neighbors, we managed to bring to life the true meaning of the season by teaming up with our church small group to provide for a family with limited resources.  On the Monday before Christmas, our group arrived at the Omni American Bank in Weatherford and placed an abundance of wrapped Christmas gifts in the middle of the lobby.  We handed the presents over to the grandmother responsible for taking care of her three grandchildren while the kids’ mom serves out her remaining jail sentence.  It warmed my heart to not only participate in this act of service, but to demonstrate the meaning of life in a very real, roll-up-your-sleeves way to Hannah.

“’In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak,’” Luke wrote in Acts 20:35, quoting the apostle Paul, “’remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”’” (Acts 20:35 NIV).  As we relegate yet another Christmas to the realm of Christmas Past, as we store away our memories on picture disks and DVDs, as we dump the shredded wrapping paper into the recycle bin and store away the presents, there’s one gift we need to put on instead of put away: the Gift of God’s Son.  May you strive to wear the garment of redemption, the robe of salvation, and the multi-colored coat of love as we close out this year and begin a fresh new 2014.  God bless!

-THE END-

12/27/2013

Copyright © 2013, David C. Hughes

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2013-12-12 Daily)

And now for something totally different to help get you into that Christmassy spirit!  Enjoy!  Oh, by the way, that’s my mom, circa Christmas 1981.  Sorry, Mom, I couldn’t resist . . . .

 

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

by

David C. Hughes

 

Okay, I cheated.  But, hey, like the good husband I am, I admitted it to Mary later that evening: “Hannah and I listened to Christmas music in the car today,” I confessed.  Mary put her hands on her hips and just stared at me with those wonderfully blue, soul-piercing eyes.  As the silence grew palpable, I responded to the uncomfortable urge to fill in the conversational dead space: “I know how you feel about listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving,” I stammered, “but 98.7 FM is playing it already.”

“Hmm,” she finally said, shaking her head. “Whatever happened to Thanksgiving?”  It’s her lament every year, her own personal hell.  But you married me, I have to remind her.  You signed up for this!

Yes, I’m weak.  And it’s bad enough I snuck a toke off the pre-Thanksgiving Christmas music pipe, but I should’ve known better than to have demonstrated such irresponsibility in front of my six-year-old daughter.  In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I admit I felt a bit of a thrill dragging Hannah down the road of Christmas music perdition with me.  But seriously, what’s next?  Setting up the Christmas tree the day after Halloween?  Hanging my stocking above the fireplace on Labor Day?  Inviting Santa to deliver our Elf on the Shelf on July 4th?

Retailers don’t help, either, with their Christmas tree displays in full bloom planted in the middle of the store in October.  They have to realize that playing Christmas music in their establishments the day after Halloween is like setting a bottle of Crown Royal on the welcome table at an AA convention–even if I don’t partake, the thought has been planted and must, eventually, be satisfied.  And once “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “The Little Drummer Boy” gets into my head, well . . . . there’s only one thing that can drive out those demons in the chord of C7: the clandestine fix.

A few weeks after Halloween this year, as I drove Hannah home from gymnastics, I quietly searched Sirius XM to see if they’d pre-empted Channel 4 and Channel 17 with “Holiday Traditions” and “Holly” yet.  “What wrong with the radio, Daddy?” Hannah’s sweet, innocent voice trilled in my ears.

“Uh, well, uh . . .” It was no use; I could no more lie to my daughter than I could to my wife.  “I’m seeing if I can get Christmas music on the radio,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t say anything to Mary about catching me red-fingered.  It’s hard to be discreet, though, when the “Absolutely Mindy Show” on Kids Place Live is suddenly interrupted with the beeps, grunts, and gurgles of digital station tuning.  Striking out with the radio, I ended up getting my pre-Thanksgiving Christmas fix from another source: Charles M. Schulz.

“Let’s watch ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ tonight,” I suggested to Hannah as I finished cooking dinner later that evening.  Of course she agreed, so I set up the card table in front of the couch, dished out the plates heaping with food, and dropped the DVD into the player.  We ate and watched, then after I cleaned off the table and brought Hannah her bowl of ice cream, I fingered the remote.  “How about watching ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’” I said.

“Really?”

“Sure, why not.”  I jumped up, swapped DVDs, and the 1965 classic popped onto the 46” flat screen in full living color.  I was in heaven . . . . until the next morning.

“Mom, we watched Charlie Brown Christmas last night,” Hannah said while eating her breakfast.  Like Adam standing under the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I just smiled sheepishly and pointed the finger of blame at Hannah.

“Uh huh,” Mary grunted, looking straight at me.  “Somehow I don’t believe you.”  I shrugged and found interest in the swirls of oatmeal and almond milk in my bowl.

Since Christmas music before Turkey Day is verboten in the Hughes household, I usually sate my incipient Christmas-season anticipation by dragging the boxes of Christmas lights out of the attic a week or two before Thanksgiving.  I used to hang them after Thanksgiving, but I got tired of freezing my butt off perched 20 feet above the rose bushes on an aluminum extension ladder with 25 mile-an-hour winds whipping out of the north, trying to coax my purple fingers to snap another bulb clip under a rock-hard shingle.

Usually the weekend before Thanksgiving in North Texas is warm enough to allow accomplishment of this yearly ritual, with temperatures ranging from the 60’s to the 80’s, hence the reason I get away with starting early; I’m a weenie when it comes to cold weather, and Mary, the Proverbs 31 wife that she is, makes concessions for her high-Q husband.  But this year, to my extreme joy, the National Weather Service predicted winter weather the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Elated, I made the executive decision to start hanging my Christmas lights two weeks before Thanksgiving!  Woo hoo!  So with temperatures near 90 degrees, I actually got sunburned scaling my monstrous 32-foot extension ladder with handfuls of C9s and plastic clips.  ‘Tis the season to be jolly!

The freezing rain came and went, and I managed to snap the rest of the lights onto the shingles and gutters before the family arrived to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and for some reason I accidentally left the lights lit up Thanksgiving night.  Along with three of the other four houses on our cul de sac.  Oops.

As I mentioned, Mary laments the passing of Thanksgiving into the premature hustle and bustle of Christmas; she calls Turkey Day the “Forgotten Holiday.”  And it’s so true.  Just take one look at our holiday decoration bins and you’ll see exactly what I mean: five orange and black totes are filled to the brim with costumes, wigs, foam tombstones, plastic skeletons, and illuminated skulls; eighteen green and red bins are swollen with Christmas lights, plastic trees, garland, festive tableware, wreaths, ornaments, and the Advent calendar; and a lone orange tote is half-filled with a pumpkin centerpiece, a table runner, a small basket of scarecrows, and the painted pumpkin we hang on the front door that says “Give Thanks.”  The rest of the bin is filled with stale air and Mary’s tears.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy Thanksgiving, especially feasting on turkey and homemade sweet potato pie, filling my coffee cup with another round of cab sauv, and watching the Cowboys actually win.  But the best thing of all?  On Black Friday it’s finally legal for me to tune into the Christmas Station and listen to the Boss belt out his rendition of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”  The bells they are a-ringin’, and Clarence Clemons is a-singin’!

So when it comes right down to it, why do I like this time of year so much?  It’s the warm memories of Christmases I experienced when I was a child, and having the privilege and the responsibility to pass on the magic–and the meaning–of the season to Hannah.  Hearing Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, and Frank Sinatra usher in the season always takes me back to a simpler time with memories straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Memories of our cardboard fireplace with its tin foil flames lit with an orange light bulb, and real Christmas trees harvested from the field behind the house.  Memories of Dad waiting until the week before Christmas to set up our tree, and how he would hang the multi-colored strand of lights around the picture window in foot-deep snow and temperatures well below freezing.  Memories of my brothers and I laying metal tinsel across the O-gauge railroad tracks to watch the sparks, and memories of waiting for “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to arrive on one of the four channels we got on our massive console TV.

It’s the memories of being so excited we couldn’t go to sleep on Christmas Eve, but always managing to do it somehow.  And memories of how Dad would make us wait until he rolled out of bed, went to the bathroom, and had his cup of hot tea with milk and sugar before we could even think about opening a present.  We sat there like dogs with Milkbones on our noses, drooling, until Dad took his place in the burnt orange arm chair, and Mom distributed presents with one hand and filmed the festivities with her Super 8 camera in the other.  Memories of the old Norelco ad where a Claymation Santa rode an electric razor over snow-covered hills, and the endless Ronco commercials blaring at us after we got cable installed and could tune in WPIX Channel 11 from New York City.  Memories of white spaghetti, red wine, and board games like Yahtzee and Aggravation on Christmas Eve, and ham and sweet potatoes on Christmas day after mass.  And Christmas music playing all day on the tinny white plastic AM radio perched on top of the refrigerator.  It’s a scene straight from A Christmas Story, but it was our story too, and I loved every moment of it.  Still do.

Yes, I’m weak.  Weak for fond Christmas memories, sharing the magic with my wife and daughter, driving around the countryside to look at Christmas lights, and listening to Christmas music on the radio.  But can you blame me?  After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

 

-THE END-

12/12/2013

Copyright © 2013, David C. Hughes

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