I’m sure most have a favorite Christmas song. My heart has a soft spot for songs from the 40’s so mine is “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” The song is a melancholy yet uplifting gem written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine and was introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” In the scene in which the song is sung, Garland’s character Esther is trying to cheer up her little sister Tootie, played by Margaret O’Brien. Their father is thinking of moving them to New York city so he can accept a job promotion and they really don’t want to leave their home in St. Louis. The moment is poignant as tears fill little Tootie’s eyes. Things aren’t good now but “next year all our trouble will be miles away.” Listen to the tune with the link below.
The holidays are a difficult time for many. In 1944 families were separated by World War II, temporarily or permanently. Throughout the years until today folks have been filled with uncertainty about a world where wars are still fought, there is poverty, terrorism, disease and other continuing concerns. Holidays and celebrations are occasions to set aside our worries temporarily, gather with family and friends and create happy memories to sustain us throughout the rest of the year. Unfortunately, that’s not easy for everyone. Still, we hold out our candle of hope and try to make the best of it.
Growing up in our house, Christmas meant “Mom.” Our mom loved Christmas to pieces. Like a mad elf, she embraced the shopping, the baking, the tree trimming, to the fullest extent. I still remember dad driving us all around the neighborhood in Essex, MD, in our car to gaze in wonder at the beautifully lit houses. There were Christmas parties, visits to Valley View Farms to see the displays, caroling, making cookies, Christmas specials on TV (Rudolf!), midnight mass. We spent time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close family friends. It certainly wasn’t idyllic. Dad had to work a lot to keep a roof over our heads. There were squabbles and disappointments, but we got through it and my memories of Christmas over the years are mostly wonderful.
Today I’m on my way to 49 years old now and living far away from where I grew up. Mom has been gone for eleven years. Dad, my step Mama Rose and brother are in Maryland. My cousins all have their own families, children, grandchildren. When the past leaves you, or you leave it, making new traditions that you can call your own is important. This Christmas, in Key West, I am spending it by the beach with friends. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, there will be ham, potluck dishes, some cheer, laughter and, later tonight, music when we, The Shanty Hounds, play once again at Grunts Bar, 409 Caroline Street.
So, have yourself a merry little Christmas now. Set aside your cares just for today. Create a new tradition, small or large, a happy memory to sustain you for the coming year. We can muddle through, somehow, together. That’s why I love this old song. The quiet optimism in the face of sadness and the unknown. As in olden days, I hope the fates allow us happy golden days in 2017.
Thanks for reading. Here is a related opinion piece by Bruce Handy from the New York Times.