Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“Believe” by Josh Groban

December 24, 2012

My husband has always been a considerate giver of gifts. For special occasions, he tries to find things no one else would have imagined to give. Even during the course of “regular life,” I’ll sometimes come home from work to find a book he thought I might like, or a television show recorded that he thought I would want to watch, or a tee-shirt purchased because it reminded him of me. He does the same thing for our children. This aspect of his personality is not reserved just for family. I have seen him time and again go the extra mile to be thoughtful to friends, colleagues, and students. Living with him, I have tried to become more conscious of how important little outward demonstrations can mean to others. I don’t come close to approaching my husband’s natural ease and generosity. But he has made me aware of how much it can mean to know that another person is thinking of you, even for no reason at all.

Last Christmas, my husband gave me a little wooden box with a bird painted on the front. On top were the words “Believe in yourself.” And on the back he had written “I do.” At the time, I thought the gift was cute, but didn’t pay it a lot of attention. I put it on a shelf in my room. Over the course of the past year, I have found myself drawn to that little painting, and it has grown to become one of my most beloved articles. Every time I look at it, I think of my kind husband, my best friend, who has never failed to encourage me, especially during some of the hardest times I had in past years.

We have been together for more than 18 years, married now more than 12 of them. There have been times when it has seemed like we barely know who each other is. And then there have been other times when it has been glaringly obvious that we know each other all too well. But most of the time, our relationship rests on the foundation enjoyed by two people who understand each other with a unique closeness, respect each other with special esteem, love each other with integrity and honesty. Every day, I try to be thankful for that gift. Admittedly, sometimes I neglect to remember and appreciate. I like to think I make up for it other times by wondering why I have been so fortunate to meet and spend my life with him.

My husband has always proven he believes in me. He stood by me when I didn’t think I was smart enough to keep up with students in a graduate program. When my grandmother died and I felt like my heart would never heal. Both times we moved and I freaked out over finances and details. During the many anxious days of our wedding planning. The many times I doubted I could ever be a good stepmother. The long nights after 2001, when I was worried over his safety working in New York City. Throughout my pregnancy as I grew increasingly uncomfortable and exhausted. After our son was born and I struggled to regain a sense of stability and confidence. During long years of professional angst and anxiety. Over this entire summer, as I grappled with turning 40 and everything it implied, or at least everything from it I inferred. It was always Michael providing steady and unfailing support, being my rock, holding my hand, believing.

He is an easily embarrassed person, and I am not sure quite how he will react to such a public demonstration of appreciation and affection. But he deserves it. And not for having my back. Just because he is a great man, a devoted father and son, a dedicated teacher, a kind friend, and a better husband than I could have expected to deserve.

My post today, this Christmas Eve 2012, is to assure my husband that I do believe as well. But believing in myself is less important than it may have been at one time. I have come to better recognize in the past year how much I believe in our family, our children, our home, our life together. And how much I always will rely on and believe in him.

“You have everything you need if you just believe.”


“Angels We Have Heard On High” by Josh Groban and Brian McKnight

December 19, 2012

This has always been one of my favorite traditional Christmas songs. And probably among the most challenging to sing.

For the last several days, even before last Friday, I was starting to lose my spirit. There’s so much left to get done before Christmas, both holiday-related and not. Along with the stress of my little life, the loud clamor of the world’s unpleasantness threatened to drown out all positive messages that I could hope to hear. When I woke up this morning, I even felt anxious about what I would write today. My thoughts somehow landed on this carol.

If we consider this song not literally, but figuratively, maybe the voices of angels are singing to us all the time. When major catastrophes strike, it’s not surprising we can’t hear them. Even when things are relatively calm, however, those voices have to compete with all of life’s distractions: technology, reality television, shopping, bills, groceries, doctor’s appointments, meetings, etc., etc.

So I tried to consider if maybe I’ve been deaf to any angels calling to me lately. And it dawned on me that, yes, I had.

There was my co-worker yesterday who invited me to a party for a department I haven’t been part of for more than two years, who makes me laugh and listens every day to my silliness.

There are the many friends and relatives over the past month who have been reading my project and sending me little notes of encouragement. Some I see all the time, and others I haven’t seen in years. Some live very close, and others are in different parts of the country and world, but they all have extended attention and kindness that matters so much to me.

There’s my stepdaughter, who called yesterday to tell us of her solid academic success this semester, which was a wonderful sound to hear, as has been her more frequent and consistent voice in our home as she’s attended college close to it this semester.

There are my parents, whom I’ve often underestimated and failed to appreciate, both as a child and as an adult. They have been super enthusiastic about my writing in the last few weeks, but that’s really nothing new. They have always encouraged me in all the aspects of my life, this blog being the least among them.

And there are the two guys, my husband and my son, who help me navigate through this chaotic, noisy world. Their voices try to find me and help me every day, with the sweetest message of all: “I love you.”

We all have angels in our lives. I promise you if you listen close, you will hear yours, too.

“Deck the Halls” by Percy Faith

December 17, 2012

This morning, I said so long to my husband, a high school teacher, and my son. My heart threatened to brim over with worry, concern, and mostly complete love for them both. In talking with a few moms who stood outside my son’s school this morning and after reading various social-media posts, I know I am not alone in my feelings today.

This weekend, I thought about two things related to Jesus, whose birth we prepare to celebrate, that gave me a little comfort:

  1. When the disciples tried to keep children away from Jesus, he rebuked them. He welcomed and blessed the little children and said that the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to them.
  2. In various places in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as “rabbi,” which means teacher.

Over the last several years, U.S. teachers have been the subject of increasing scrutiny and sometimes heavy criticism. Certainly, their methods, qualifications, and efforts should matter to the public—we entrust to educators our own little children, without question our most valuable resource. As is true with any profession, some employed within teaching don’t take their jobs seriously enough, and measures should be taken to deal with that when it occurs. As well, sane reforms to improve our overall educational system are necessary.

But poorly performing teachers seem to get more attention than do the host of good ones. Most teachers whom I’ve known personally, both as a student and now as an adult, are hardworking people genuinely eager to make a difference. They don’t come close to having the imagined rewards and privileges that segments of an embittered public accuse them of enjoying. It’s always easier to hurl invective at and direct anger toward people working within a system, instead of considering the system itself, and exploring the reality that all of us, teachers and not, are part of that system.

To be a good teacher means to have concern for the future, a desire to help others, and a willingness to sacrifice in an attempt to instill positive habits and values in young people. After reading about the acts of courage that educators performed last week, it also requires a level of dedication and, sadly, selfless bravery that most other professions don’t yet require.

This week, my son will perform in his school’s holiday concert. His class is singing “Deck the Halls.” Teachers are helping him and his friends learn all the words, the arrangement, the harmony, the presentation. The children are undoubtedly testing their patience, but these adults continue to work with the kids to make something beautiful for the children’s families to treasure and enjoy. And though the songs and shows are different, similar experiences are happening in classrooms throughout the country. Such dedicated efforts, however, happen not just this week, but every single day, as teachers guide and shepherd students through academic subjects, creative endeavors, and, yes, difficult life lessons.

For today, although the musical connection is tenuous at best, I dedicate my writing to teachers—to all those whom I know and love personally (including my husband, father, countless relatives and friends); to those who educate my son and try to make him a better person; and to all those unknown to me but who I have no doubt have spent the better part of today calming fears, holding hands, drying eyes, and giving of themselves, even though they probably have little left to share.

It’s unfortunate that sometimes their efforts are remembered only in extreme circumstances. Each day, many of them work to help our children in small and enormous ways—a true gift that we should appreciate long after the holidays are over.

“Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney

December 16, 2012

Today I don’t have any attempted “words of wisdom” (to use an appropriate phrase), introspective reflections, views on events, or song analyses to offer. Since the day several weeks ago when I read that Martin Short and Paul McCartney would be hosting Saturday Night Live’s final 2012/holiday episode, I was super excited to watch. And even though I seriously doubted it would actually happen, I hoped that I would get to hear one of my favorite musicians sing one of my absolute favorite Christmas songs.

I was very tired last night, and a combination of fatigue and ongoing gloom had definitely dampened my enthusiasm for the program. But I pushed myself to stay awake, figuring that distraction would help a little. And it did.

The show made me laugh, and last night I needed laughs. Even as 1:00 AM approached, Paul had already sung two non-holiday numbers, and things seemed to be wrapping up, I didn’t mind. As the final skit started, a more aware and astute person could easily have predicted where things were headed. But I think I was too distracted by the outlandish absurdity of the whole scenario (which is still cracking me up) to really have noticed.

Usually, as my friends and family can attest, I do not like to be surprised. I really was caught totally off guard when I heard those first few notes of “Wonderful Christmastime.”

And last night, it was a perfect and wonderful surprise, and I did not mind one little bit.

(I posted the video for the original song at the top, but I’ve also included below the link to the skit and live version done last night for anyone who needs some smiles and laughs as well!)

“Silver Bells” by Anne Murray

December 13, 2012

Today, my alarm went off, and the first thing I heard was the radio announcer reporting that Philadelphia was ranked the nation’s third dirtiest city. And it just made me sad. Another list focused on negativity. Another bad mark against my hometown’s name.

It was an ironic literal wake-up call that once again caused me to doubt myself. Just yesterday, I was thinking how special and spectacular it is to be from, work in, and live near a large city, particularly at the holidays. So many decorations in windows. Special events continually at one’s disposal. The constant hustle and rush of people.

I had met my stepdaughter for lunch. She is living at college nearby, taking the subway back and forth to school, starting to branch out and learn the city. I admit to enjoying being her gazetteer–explaining how to get around, the location of different landmarks, what to do if you go the wrong way. If you are from the city, navigating is something you simply learn by osmosis. Teaching it to someone else is a little harder, but I welcome the challenge.

We had a lovely time. She has wrapped up another semester of school, and we talked about the summer and the next few years to come. Being with her at this time in her life makes me feel happy and vicariously eager, and I admit to wanting to hang around her and absorb her projected positive energy. At 20, she radiates health, youth, and beauty. I look at her and wonder how the time from when I myself was 20 vanished so quickly.

When we were done, I walked her back to the subway station and then treked back to my office, about a mile away. It was well past lunch time, but the city was more alive than usual. Crowds were streaming from stores. People had their arms filled with packages. Outside of almost every restaurant, patrons saying farewell to one another were embracing, wishing each other happy holidays, and vowing to “do this more often” in the new year. And the song that popped into my mind as I moved in the midst of this was “Silver Bells.”

I chose Anne Murray’s rendition of today’s song, because her voice instantly brings me back to the late 1970s/early 1980s, when I was growing up in South Philly. There my character and experience were molded by and shaped within an urban environment that, just like any other place, had negatives and positives. For good and for bad, it helped make me who I am.

I didn’t hear any silver bells yesterday. No Santa stood on a street corner collecting for the Salvation Army. And yes, there was also a ton of traffic, drivers honking and getting impatient, pollution, litter, and all the other things that can make a city challenging and difficult to tolerate.

But it’s what I know and love. And it’s exciting to watch my children, one of whom is almost an adult like me, coming to know and love it, too.

“Remember (Christmas)” by Nilsson

December 12, 2012

Today is 12-12-12, the last in a sequence of triple-number years that began with the fateful 2001, and the likes of which I will not see again in my lifetime. When I think back to 1-1-1, so much has changed, obviously for the world overall, but also in my life.

I was, at that time, a newlywed. I did not own a home. I still had a living grandparent, and was in many ways barely recovered from the death of another. I had yet to turn 30, let alone 40. My stepdaughter was only slightly older than my son is now; my son and niece and friends of many children and relatives had yet to enter the world. I was still close with people whom, through time and circumstance, I have become distant and, in at least one case, sadly estranged. I had yet to meet others who would become pivotal players.

And I was very much me but still becoming me, having yet to experience some of my own best and worst times, all within a little more than a decade.

“Long ago, far away

Life was clear

Close your eyes”

I first heard today’s song in the movie You’ve Got Mail. It plays behind a scene in which the female protagonist, Kathleen (Meg Ryan), is decorating her Christmas tree. Kathleen is just going through the motions, trying to keep up joyful appearances and a festive atmosphere, even though her heart is not in it. Her beloved children’s bookstore, inherited from her deceased mother, is being driven out of business. She’s in an unfulfilling relationship. Kathleen is at one of those points we’ve all experienced, a phase that I myself went through slowly over several years during this 12-year cycle—a time when you know things are changing, that they have to change, and you can do nothing to stop it.

You don’t know if things will improve or get worse. All you can do is understand that they will be different and hope for the best.

At such times, like Kathleen, our default is to look to the past and wish we could just return to easier, more certain circumstances. When people we loved and depended on were still there and available to us. When less was demanded or expected. When we understood our role and place and felt secure and stable.

“Remember is a place from long ago

Remember, filled with everything you know

Remember when you’re sad and feeling down

Remember—turn around”

Even a soul as troubled as the unredeemed Ebenezer Scrooge, upon first returning to the past against his will, is initially moved and filled with delight—to see the town of his youth, his old schoolhouse, friends from yesteryear, his own boyhood self.  In fact, in the written A Christmas Carol, at least as much of his return to the past is as happy as it is sad–he remembers a joyous incident with his sister and an exceptionally festive time with his former employer and coworkers.

The sadness Scrooge experiences in the novella heavily involves his broken relationship with Belle and a scene that usually is not included in adaptations of the story. In that oft-neglected scene, Belle now has several children and a grown daughter who greatly resembles Belle in her youth. Scrooge watches the family boisterously enjoying one another and celebrating Christmas the same year that he buried Jacob Marley. Belle laughs dismissively when her husband mentions having seen Scrooge earlier that morning, “quite alone in the world.” This is the last vision that the Ghost of Christmas Past shows the distraught Scrooge, emphasizing “These were shadows of the things that have been . . . That they are what they are, do not blame me!”

But Scrooge isn’t simply mourning what has been. Or even what is. What tortures him most is what might have been.

“Remember life is just a memory

Remember, close your eyes and you can see

Remember, think of all that life can be


It’s so tempting to say that if I could go back in time, I would do certain things differently. Over the past several years, after a series of challenging events, I’ve had many moments when I’ve second-guessed decisions, longed for another chance to appreciate friends and loved ones with whom I’ve either lost touch or just don’t spend enough time, and yes, wished for do-overs, to rectify wrongs and, in a few cases, mend fences. But just like how the past I remember is likely illusory, so is the idea that I’d really significantly alter my path. For everything new obtained, something treasured would have to be relinquished. The option to fix one of yesterday’s missteps could actually lead to a less pleasing and suitable life than the one I have now.

This does not mean just blindly swallowing today as it is, confusing acceptance with complacency, and taking no action to remedy or improve things that I can. But to once again combine ideas from two of my most favorite influences (Mr. E.M. Forster and my all-time most beloved television show, LOST), I cannot look at my moments of flashing back to the past, flashing forward to an undesired possible future, or flashing sideways to alternative realities as anything but finding signposts, and not arriving at destinations.

The message I take from Dickens’ story as it evolves, from You’ve Got Mail and the changes that Kathleen experiences to arrive at an ultimately happy place, and of today’s song by Nilsson is this: Use the past as a helpful refuge, but do not let it become an anchor. The past can help us understand how we got to where we are. It can bring us pleasure and happiness and a sense of reassurance when our todays are unsteady and our tomorrows filled with foreboding.

But we cannot become so frozen with anxiety, consumed with regret, or preoccupied with minor or major alterations  of our lives in progress that we squander the present and whatever future remains. To do so certainly means being continually haunted. But the specter is simply oneself.

“Dream—love is only a dream


Remember—life is never as it seems”

The last words for today, as for many of these posts, are from that masterful genius who brilliantly portrayed the human condition across all seasons of the year, and especially at Christmas, Mr. Charles Dickens:

“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?” For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

“Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.”

The kind hand trembled.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

December 11, 2012

Last night, around 8:45 PM, I crashed. My day had consisted of work, the commute home, a simple dinner, clean up, two rounds of “Hip-Hop Dance Party” with my son, and then collapsing on the couch.

The aforementioned child, meanwhile, was still going strong. He had played a total of nine rounds of the same game and was still spinning and doing his own personal version of breakdancing. When he got bored with that, he swooped into the next room to play Nerf basketball. This was after a full day of school, an hour of running around at aftercare, homework, studying, and various other activities.

Eight years old. 9:00 PM. Raring to go. His parents told him it was time for bed, and he dragged us upstairs and put us to sleep.

Two years ago, the whirling dervish who is my child became enamored with today’s song. Part of his affection for this piece is related to the initial reactions of his parents to it. The first time we all heard it, it was playing loudly on the radio at the end of Thanksgiving. I looked at my husband with weary eyes and said, “This is not relaxing holiday music.”

“I know,” he answered. “This sounds like something that should be playing while you’re dodging sniper fire.”

Immediately our son burst out laughing. This led to all of us posing increasingly outlandish scenarios set to the background of “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo”—dogs leaping over piles of rubble, babies parachuting from planes, old men catching one another as they jumped from burning buildings.

And the song was, begrudgingly by some and lovingly by one, adopted as a holiday family favorite.

Last week, my husband called me while I was at work. It was around 4:00 PM. I asked how his day was and how our son was doing. “He’s on the couch taking a nap,” was the response. “He said he had a headache.” I immediately knew I would be home from work the next day to take care of him, because he was getting sick. The only time the tempo slows, the volume lowers, the energy dwindles is when my son is not feeling well. Mercifully, those times are rare.

This song captures something internal about my little guy and his character since he was born—filled with manic energy, experiencing life with intensity, interpreting his world in a unique and imaginative way. At times he overwhelms me, like last night, when all I wanted was to rest quietly and all he wanted was for me to set up his LEGO Website account, help him write notes to MistleJoe the Elf, watch the new dance he created to “Sexy and I Know It,” and quiz him for his upcoming Social Studies test. All within 15 minutes.

But while he was sleeping on the couch last week, not himself, all I could think was how wrong things were. Even if my internal holiday radio is generally set to Johnny Mathis or Annie Lennox, I’ve gotten used to our external Christmas life being set to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

And I really wouldn’t want it any other way.

“This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway

December 10, 2012

Dear Santa Claus:

This letter is a request to help make my Christmas very special.

I listen to the radio, both traditional and satellite, a lot during the holidays. I know that I have the option of turning to my own music collection, and I sometimes do, but I have always enjoyed the random nature of radio–the anticipation of wondering what the next tune will be and the hope that I’ll hear one of my favorites when I need it most. I know I can always play a great song 100 times in a row if I want to, and sure, I enjoy that. But there still is nothing like listening to the radio and hearing that same song pop on after waiting patiently through seemingly endless commercials and jingles, smiling silently as I know that timing and fate conspired to ensure that my ears were in the right place at the right time.

For fans of the holiday music genre, this time of year requires a certain tolerance of repetition. There are only so many holiday songs, and most stations rely on a small selection of well-known favorites. Stations try to minimize the repetition by trotting out the same songs, but spicing things up by including different versions by assorted artists. I don’t mind this–in fact, in several cases, I welcome it. Even with some of my most preferred songs, by some of my most beloved artists, I am happy to hear alternative interpretations. The best example of this would involve “Wonderful Christmastime.” I really always want to hear My Sir Paul alone sing it. But I can grant that The Shins just released a decent, listenable cover, and about five years ago, Jars of Clay did an awesome version for which I give them eternal props.

But some songs really should be played only in one version. And for me that’s true of “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway.

Why would I want to look at a fifth-grader’s attempt to mimic Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh? Why would I watch Gus Van Sant’s lame attempt at Psycho with Vince Vaughn when Alfred Hitchcock got it perfect the first time with Anthony Perkins? And why would I ever, ever want to hear anyone else sing this song, rendered in perfect voice by the original artist, at the right tempo, with an awesome band behind him?

Could you consider working a little Christmas magic over the radio stations and, when it’s time for this song to be in rotation, for them to play it only in Donny’s incarnation? Even the late Amy Winehouse knew there was nothing anyone could teach that she couldn’t learn from Mr. Hathaway.

As I said earlier, I know that when it comes to Christmas music there’s not a ton of variety with which to work. So if we can’t strike a deal to limit “This Christmas” to my preferred version only, can I at least ask to somehow be spared the following:

  • Chris Brown’s version, because I don’t want to think of him luring any young woman to spend a very special Christmas with him
  • Christina (or should I say Xtina) Aguilera’s version, because she sounds like she’s having indigestion, Tourette’s syndrome, a stroke, or maybe all three through most of it, and I can’t take it
  • Above all, Gloria Estefan’s misguided and headache-inducing version, which includes cheesy, dated synthesizers, a cutesy children’s choir (never, in my opinion, the right backup group for a sexy, romantic number in which the lead singer pleads to “hang all the mistletoe, I want to get to know you better”), and strained vocals way outside her narrow and limited range

I’ve been really good this year. You already knew this, being Santa and all.

Merry Christmas. XO. Shake a hand, shake a hand now.


A Lifelong Fan and True Believer

“Walking in the Air” by Peter Auty

December 9, 2012

I discovered today’s song only a few years ago, hearing a school chorus rendition of it on the radio. It is from the 1982 short film The Snowman, which tells the tale of a young boy whose eponymous creation comes alive for a day. The Snowman learns about the boy’s world, the boy learns about The Snowman’s world. At the end, the snow melts, as does the viewer’s heart. This animated film, based on the book of the same name, is entirely wordless, except for an interlude where the boy and The Snowman fly from the child’s village to the North Pole, a sequence set to the beautiful and haunting “Walking in the Air.”

With age and time, we lose many things, and part of successful maturity is learning to accept those losses with grace. I frequently dwell on aspects of my appearance that certainly are not improving as the years pass, because I must immediately confront them every time I look in the mirror–the extra pounds, the gray hairs, the deepening lines in my forehead and around my eyes. Even when I am not thinking about how I look, my body reminds me that I am not quite as young as I default to thinking myself to be. My perfect eyesight has been troubling me the last few weeks. Muscles ache for two days after a weekend of housework and holiday decorating. A skinned and bruised knee still hurts after a silly fall almost a month ago.

“Be young at heart.” “You’re only as old as you feel.” “Age is just a number.” These phrases are easy to speak, and, like most oft-repeated sayings, hold grains of truth. No matter how much we do to preserve our physical youth, it will disappear, and this lies beyond our control. But internally, can we cling to the child within? Can we keep a spirit of imagination and curiosity alive inside? Why is it so difficult to do?

Like most children, I had an overactive imagination. I didn’t watch favorite televisions shows—I was part of those shows as they aired. In my mind, I was Fonzie’s sister, Barbarino’s girlfriend, the third host of The Magic Garden. When my friends and I played, we made up crazy, elaborate stories, both for ourselves and our dolls, for which the plots seemed entirely plausible. No effort was required on my part to believe in Santa’ s North Pole as a real place—in fact, I think it was harder for me to accept the opposite. Even in my teen years, though my preoccupations began to shift to more practical and tangible issues, I still would dream of what my life would be like in years to come and never run out of options—where I would live, whom I would marry, if I would marry, what I would be when I grew up . . .

The practical, nagging details of life—those broken relationships, failed projects, sad farewells to loved ones, dashed expectations, not to mention the tedious, endless repetition of chores and tasks that accompany adulthood—they amalgamate every day, threatening to overtake and eventually completely replace wonder and hope.

My army to fight the emotional, psychological, and spiritual battle against Father Time is better equipped and more strongly fortified than the physical one. It has been reinforced through years of reading, contemplation, discussion, exposure to film, art, and music. It has been supported by sympathetic family, loved ones, and friends of similar inclinations, some of whom are further along in their own fights, others who have yet to engage, and still others directly alongside me, digging their own trenches.

When I see a Pixar film, or watch Downton Abbey, or walk through downtown Haddonfield, or make a visit to the Byer’s Choice shop, or put up lights and decorations, or sit on a couch eating Halloween candy and listening to Pandora, or look through magazines and catalogs for updates to my wardrobe or my home, or send silly and ridiculous messages to parents, friends, or my husband, or sit down to write blog posts, or listen to “Walking in the Air,” I use as much as I can of whatever remains of my childhood imagination, my creative spirit, my heart filled with eager expectation.

When I hear this song, I actually feel like I am floating in a marvelous winter wonderland—a cold, silver sky; the earth engulfed in blue and white; wind and chill whipping around me as the world I know is transformed into a magical, even if ephemeral, place.

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!” Charles Dickens

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon

December 8, 2012

For those who have been following my project, today is a “Little Saint Nick” in reverse. Two days ago, I posted a song by a band for whom I don’t much care, because the tune was the one I liked best related to a direct Christmas-associated theme of the day.

Now, it’s the opposite situation. Today my writing is not really much about the holidays. And though the artist in question is in my highest musical esteem, I don’t enjoy the song itself. I’ve never cared for it. I’ve tried. I swear I have. It has a reflective message. It promotes peace. It incorporates a sweet children’s choir.

Despite my efforts, when I hear this song, I want to switch the dial. I realize that many would consider this heresy, and I myself feel like I am being disloyal just in admitting it. My devotion to the Four Who Were Fab, the Lads from Liverpool, the Boys of Britain is known even among those who barely know me.

Sometimes, the musical chemistry is just off, and that is the situation with me and “Happy Xmas.”


When I had to choose the holiday song selection of December 8, no other tune was ever in the running.

Because today is the day, 32 years ago, that John Lennon died, age 40 years, 1 month, and 29 days. An age that I, for the first holiday season, am now past.

I don’t want the holidays to take a morbid turn, so I won’t dwell on the events of that day. Over this summer, as my own 40th birthday approached and arrived, I thought a lot about John Lennon–about his music and how songs of his, both with and without The Beatles, had influenced and even come to symbolize, for me, various episodes from my life. More frequently, I confronted the reality of the shortness of the time he was given. I became overwhelmed whenever I considered his creative output, produced within an undoubtedly compressed span, left behind for the world forever. And I became angry whenever I pondered the unfairness of his murder–not for his fans, or his friends, or even his family. Just for him.

Because 40 years isn’t enough for anyone, no matter how much or how little he or she has accomplished.

John would have turned 72 in October. He should have been 72 today.

The music of The Beatles has been so influential to so many. Even a song I don’t especially like by one of them still means more to me than most songs by everyone else.

So today’s song is John’s.

 “War is over. If you want it.”

Who am I to disagree?