By James Matthews
A thought or two about Christmas.
I hear readers protesting: Jeez, can’t we get a little more beyond Halloween before talk of Christmas?
I get it. But, the shopping centres, the big box store bastions to everything you’d want, they didn’t wait. It gets earlier every year for them, it seems.
And, that’s kind of what this is about.
Music is big in my life, and there are associations to certain songs that’ll never fade. The song that played at a loved one’s wake, maybe a day before the funeral. The music in the background, beneath the stories told about them. The song to which you danced with “The One” at a graduation of some sort. Rites of passage.
An Old Christmas Card, the carol sung by Jim Reeves. Apparently, he sang many other songs, but I’ll always only know him for 12 yuletide tunes. Actually, the name of the album is Twelve Songs of Christmas.
The song An Old Christmas Card always brings me back to my parents’ house, the smell of a real Christmas tree tied to a corner of the room, lights bounced off cheesy streamers criss-crossing the ceiling. You know the ones: They’re shiny and of punched shapes. My brothers and I would get into Dad’s scotch when he and Mom were 10 toes up in bed. Just little nips nicked from the bottle in the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink. Or, we’d smuggle a beer to share in the basement rec room. Curious teens, we were.
Kids do such things that don’t matter. Not like the feeling brought to the fore by Reeves’ song about an old Christmas card in a dusty old attic trunk.
A lyric: “Guess I’m always sentimental ‘round this time.”
The lyrics tell of a simple card that means so much to the singer. A first Christmas together. Nothing spectacular, save for a feeling stoked by a simple paper card.
Have we, as a society, gotten away from being able to be buoyed by the simplicity of a card, a memory? Write the editor, dear reader, and share a Christmas memory with all of us. It’ll be a welcome change from the chagrin that’s paramount in these times.
I’ll go first:
My oldest daughter, Emily-Grace. I wasn’t married to her mother when she was conceived. And, I was married a scant few months when she was born. I was among the hapless lads told by people with earnest voices that one must step up and do what’s right. So I thought I did.
Barely out of my teens, I was slinging pizza dough and whatever toppings would stick to it as a means to pay the bills. Minimum wage in Newfoundland then was maybe $6 an hour. Emily was, like, nine or 10 months old her first Christmas. I felt like such a mutt, not able to clot the bottom of the Christmas tree with rows of wrapped toys like I felt my baby girl deserved.
I said as much to one of the waitresses who worked with me. A girl I knew from high school. It was Newfoundland: Everybody knows everybody, kind of thing.
She said something like, “You know what? Your little girl is going to love anything her mom and dad gives her because you’re her mommy and daddy.”
The marriage died a terrible death. Emily still lives in the Arctic and she loves her old man. And I never forgot those words gifted to a new father before a first Christmas.
Kind of like a song’s old Christmas card in an old dusty trunk so many years later.
Anybody else feel we’ve veered into something unintended and unfavourable, so far away from the value of a simple card, what was once an uncomplicated season?