It’s a rainy “winter” day (currently a bone-chilling 57f) here in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles as I sit cozily in my little Perks wi-fi cafe and look out the window at the gray sky and the drops of water making little splashes on the pavement of the strip-mall parking lot full of glistening wet cars. The owner Gayle has told her staff to regale their customers with a satellite radio channel that plays all Christmas songs all the time. Though I enjoy a lot of the songs (some bringing back fond memories of the holidays from my youth) it can wear on you after an hour or so when they start repeating “Jingle Bell Rock”.
One of the schmaltzier classics caught my ear this morning, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, sung by perhaps Bing Crosby. The specific lyric was…
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.”
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My mom had a great love for everything that had to do with Christmas, and particularly the figure of Santa Claus and what he symbolized in terms of celebrating and honoring children. She believed in God (unlike me) but also felt that organized religion was one of the great scourges of human history. Given that, she still enjoyed even the Christian celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus, and the bestowing on him of great gifts, seeing it as a metaphor as to how all people should greet and treat our children with an abundance of love.
Though they lived on a new college professor’s modest earnings, my parents made every effort to make Christmas time the most wonderful time of the year for me as a child. They perhaps more than most parents of the 1950s understood the value of play in the development of a young person and researched and bought me wonderful toys – like Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, wooden trains, plastic soldiers and dinosaurs – that they wrapped and placed under our Christmas tree, sometimes as much as a week or two before the big day, fueling my anticipation of this yearly event. Add to this great anticipation, we would sometimes do our Christmas celebration back east at my mom’s folks house in Binghamton, a journey usually taken by train in a sleeping compartment, one of my young life’s most memorable adventures. Continue reading →