Our language arts module in school these past few weeks has focused on the different ways art brings about a change in the people experiencing it — music being one of those genres. I can’t think of a more powerful conduit to the past than music. It has the ability to move us from one emotion to another in the blink of an eye and transports us back in time to when that tune had particular meaning in our lives.
How often I’ve driven along on my way to work and a song on the radio has instantly reminded me where I was and what I was doing when that song was playing at some time in the past. Christmas songs are especially powerful for me in conjuring up warm memories. The lyrics “frosted window panes, candles gleaming inside, painted candy canes on the tree” take me back to a very cold Christmas in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, where as a missionary I referred to that carol as one of my “homesick songs,” since it reminded me of family and home.
For me, and I’m sure many of you, if this year had a song title associated with it, it would be “How the COVID-19 Stole Christmas.” The Grinch couldn’t have been any happier being the grand marshal of this rancid, runaway year we called 2020. It truly was a year epitomized by the words “Stink, stank, stunk,” with our time-honored Christmas traditions being dumped off the top of Mount Crumpet and our trip “over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go” cancelled because of the virus.
Not everything has been a total loss, though. There were babies born, lives blessed through the kindness of others, neighbors looking out for neighbors and herculean efforts rendered by our “frontline” workers and dedicated folks behind the scenes trying to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being. Delivery drivers and postal workers all deserve big bonuses for digging out from beneath millions of parcels every day to ensure that the 12 pound fruitcake you ordered to serve as an anchor on your dad's bass boat arrived on time.
As much as we’ve all tried to retain some sense of normalcy in our communities and families, this Christmas season has been difficult across the board. Even Ebeneezer Scrooge, who vowed to live Christmas every day in the past, present and future, would have struggled being quarantined in his drafty old chateau, denied access to his Nephew Fred and newly adopted Tiny Tim, as well as nixing the family buffet featuring that roasted prize turkey. Wearing a woolen scarf wrapped around his face through the streets of London in the summertime would have been a real treat too, in a sense of the word “Bah! Humbug!” which we’ve experienced much of this season as well.
I’m one of those people who like listening to Christmas music early in the season, or any season for that matter. Why? Well, to put it simply, it makes me feel good, and when you feel good hopefully it helps you want to help others. Right?
I’ve taken a more keen interest in the lyrics of Christmas music this year and have determined that the messages contained there echo what many of us are feeling as we’ve had to adjust our traditional merry making. Typically I have a pretty good idea of what I want to write about for the paper every few weeks, but this week I’ve really struggled with ideas, so I went out on a limb and petitioned my 13 followers on social media for ideas for an article. Interestingly enough, music was suggested more than once.
Two of our local musicians have been sharing their talents on social media lately, which has been a huge uplift to those who can’t attend concerts or performances in person. Karla Axtell and Laurie Johns are amazing musicians whose holiday piano and organ selections have touched the lives of many through their music. The comments made on their musical selections helped determine the course of this article.
The lyrics to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” remind us all what we’re missing this Christmas: “Once again as in olden days, happy golden days of yore, faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more,” and “From now on our troubles will be out of sight.”
If only it were so.
For some, the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” isn’t as wonderful this year. The song suggests, “There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow. There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago” … like when we look back on 2020 and remember “the year that wasn’t.”
In 1943, the popular song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” came out dedicated to the service men and women fighting overseas during World War II and longing for home. As we think about the things we’ve missed this Christmas, the song says it best with, “Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams, I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
Here’s to dreaming about us all being home for Christmas in 2021.
Chad Hawkes is a fifth grade teacher at North Park Elementary School. He can be reached by email at email@example.com