Posts Tagged ‘family’

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Auld Lang Syne” by The Cast of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

December 25, 2012

OK, I know it’s technically not a Christmas record, and definitely not something you’ll hear on radio stations, etc. But no carols sung under other circumstances have affected me, and millions of others, more deeply than the songs at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. It will always be one of my favorite films, and its message of connection, of mattering to one another no matter how materially successful we may or may not be, of each of us touching so many others for the good without even realizing it, will never cease to move me. And to help me when times are tough.

On this joyous day, I want to wish all of you the most blessed and wonderful Christmas. I want to thank everyone who read this blog, even once, for taking time from your busy lives to do so. If my writing has touched you positively, even in the slightest, I am happy to know that. It has been fun and cathartic to externalize feelings and share different songs and ideas I have associated with them for this holiday season, 2012.

And so I bring The Yule Blog to its close with a sincere hope that all of us will enjoy all and only good things in 2013.

“No one is a failure who has friends.”

God bless us, everyone.”



“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.”

“Gesu Bambino” by Luciano Pavarotti

December 23, 2012

I must have been about 11 or 12. I came downstairs one December morning before Christmas to find my mother sitting on the couch with tears in her eyes. She was watching PBS, which at that post-Sesame Street point in my life was usually enough to drive me from the room. But I had to look to see what was causing her reaction. On the screen was a large hirsute man singing in Italian, accompanied by a boy’s choir. I listened for a few minutes and then rolled my eyes and went into the kitchen.

The song followed me through Christmas, as my father also caught onto it. Soon they were playing it in the car as we drove around, in the house on the stereo, on the television every time PBS re-aired the holiday concert with Luciano Pavarotti and a boy’s choir singing “Gesu Bambino.”

For awhile, I heard the English translation “When Blossoms Flowered Mid the Snows” sung at church during Christmas. As the years passed and I became a bit more mature and hopefully sophisticated, I came to like the song and recognize its beauty. This song never really caught on in a wide-scale way. It’s not something played on radio stations or associated with a continually aired holiday special or movie. Luckily, thanks to YouTube, I was able to find a clip and listen once again. And on hearing it, it moved me in a way similar to how it had my mother years ago. The difference being that much of my emotion about this song was directly related to my love for and appreciation of my parents.

Many songs I’ve previously discussed are family favorites. I can’t fail to mention several others that, when I hear them, I immediately and forever will think of my father. A few are “Mary’s Boy Child” by Harry Belafonte, “Merry Christmas, Darling” by The Carpenters, “Count Your Blessings” by Eddie Fisher, “Christmas Auld Lang Syne” by Bobby Darin, “Is Christmas Only a Tree?” by Bing Crosby, and “Home for the Holidays” by The Living Strings. When he first started reading this blog, my dad mentioned that he felt that maybe he had influenced my love of music over the years. Absolutely, he has, and many other more important things. I know that my impatience for the illogical, my desire for organization and common sense, my inability to hold a grudge, and my strong sense of responsibility come directly from my father. I strive every day to live with the same spirit of generosity, compassion for those in need, and deep love of family and tradition that he has always exemplified. Many people have called my father their favorite teacher and their friend over the years. I am one of only two people lucky enough to also call him father, and I could never have asked for better.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has worked tirelessly to make sure every Christmas, year in and year out, has been wonderful and special. I like to think that my borderline fanaticism over the holiday just carries on her legacy. I remember my mother teaching me all the words to “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” when I was about 5 or 6 years old, endlessly repeating the lyrics until I knew all the words. And I remember her drying my tears every time I heard Henry Mancini’s “Carol for Another Christmas” or Bobby Helms’ “The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle,” songs that as a child inexplicably made me cry. Even today, though I have children of my own, my mother still teaches me things with her same unending patience and comforts me when I am overwrought and anxious. Her sensitive and nurturing nature is what I attempt to emulate in raising my own children, although I will never be able to parent in the same seemingly effortless way she always has. She is why I understand how important it is as a parent to not forget what it feels like to be a child. My mother is the most beautiful person I know, inside and out, and the heart of our family.

I have learned through having my own children that I owe my parents unpayable debts. I don’t let them know often enough how much they mean to me, and my attempts will never really be enough.

Today, I dedicate my post and this song to my amazing and wonderful parents, with whom I am so glad to celebrate the holidays each year. Mom and Dad, Dad and Mom, I hope you will enjoy both the song and this essay and that they will inspire good memories for you as they did and do for me. Thank you for being not only great parents, but also awesome grandparents.

And know that I always and forever love you both so much.

“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.