of Seasoning

December 5, 2011

So,
One indicator that I’m getting older is that I can choke up listening to Christmas music.
Granted, not just ANY Christmas music, but the Nats and Bings of my youth can easily produce a lump.
Attributable somewhat to my love of the Season, the indefinable spirit that fills many of us, the near atmospheric anticipation of children, but also to memories of my Grandmothers overheated living room, filled with Family, of the smell of kitchen labours, of napping beneath her coffee table, never having felt safer and…her perpetual, never ceasing, stack of LP’s, monitored and prompted by the ever vigilant, black hook shaped arm of her Hi-Fi.
It reminds me of long, back seat, in the middle, feet on the hump, (Mark would claim car sickness and so always get the window. He could just have as easily said “cuz I’m older. Shut up”) drives from the high desert to her house in Downey and then Fullerton. Or the Uncles that would gather us up and take us out evenings to see the spectacular neighborhoods of lighted displays and my Fathers predictable frustration in untangling our own lights, year after year.
It can transport me back to midnight Mass pilgrimages to Rome or to the smell of a fireplace, lit with burning coal, in England.
My Father and Mother were unequaled in their design of a small boys Christmas delight. For a Man that might otherwise, kindly, be considered miserly,  Dad pulled all stops for Christmas and the joy and season it promised.
There was the fake tree (allergies, I’m told), blinking lights and heirloom decorations, illuminated characters forgotten and packed away most of the year, again and again newly regaled with oooh’s and ahhh’s once brought to life. The cherished Manger beneath and the ritualistic placing of the guiding star. Even a cardboard fireplace assemblage to properly hang our stocking (made by Mom, of course, and with our names glittered in definition). Once, a coat rack stood in as substitute, with twisting strands of pine like decoration, wrapped its length, on a Christmas we spent in a Hotel in Naples.
Like every year, Santa found his way in there too.
Christmas mornings were after restless nights. They were, for my Parents, always coffee first…THEN the heaps of brightly coloured, finely wrapped packages, waiting their own imminent demise at the hands of grinning, giddy children.
Three of us, then four. The fourth, a gift herself, of sorts.
I cannot ever remember being disappointed. There was all the plastic army men a boy could want, toy guns, A bicycle I never got to ride, and even a genuine Samsonite briefcase I begged.
There was the long cherished, best friend of my childhood, my own version of Hobbes (of Calvin)…My stuffed Santa.(there is still an accounting to be made there, Mother…WHO finally made him “go away”?)
There were easy bake ovens and doll houses for my older Sister and G.I Joes and water pump filled rocket stations for my older Brother.
Cole and Crosby can bring all that back to me but so can the voices of silly little characters from forgotten Christmas Season specials.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, for one. Those of Kris Kringle, Burgermeister Meisterburger or the Winter Warlock can have me back, in pajamas, rapt in front of a tv, mouth hanging open and someone, always, “suggesting” I close it.
Very recently, I came across a audio version of that Special and when I began playing it, the affect it had on me was startling. As I listened, within moments, I recalled the anxiety I felt as a child, for Kris and his flight across the  mountains of the Whispering Winds, the sympathy for the children of Sombertown at not being allowed toys, my dislike of the Burgermeister and his underling, my thrill at the Winter Warlock being redeemed. As I listened, I found myself recounting and even vocalizing the next lines in the drama.

~~~~~I’ve imbedded audio to enhance this tale. Please click on the “play” links~~~~~

For those of you with small children, or having had them, this may prompt a shrug and a…”So?”.
I’ve wondered since, if you could remember the first time you sat down with your little ones, for the first airing as a Family, if it had a similar affect and if you’ve since become numbed to it from exposure. I hope not. It’s a wonderful experience.
I’ve also wondered, because of the ever ready, on demand, media environment, that children today will appreciate the novelty of what was, for us anyway, annual rituals.
Every year, we highly anticipated, not just Seasonal specials, but annual screenings of movies as well. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (ooooh the child snatcher with the net!!), Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music.
I’d ask, are there a new season of movies and specials that elicit that same reaction from our children? Is Bill Murrys “Scrooged” or his awesome “Goundhog Day”, the delightful “home Alone” or Jim Carreys “Grinch”, even if just fancier tellings (as ours were) of older stories…are they, for them, my “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”? I hope so. I hope they can look forward to the retelling and rewatching as much as I did and I hope that when they get older, the memory of them will incite a flood of emotion as my own have.
Yes, I’m getting older, but I prefer to think I’m just Well Seasoned.

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*If you have Spotify, you can listen to listen to some of the Nats and Bings on the like titled playlist. A collection of classic, jazz, choral, instrumental and a few current Christmas favourites. It was a considerable endeavour, with so many choices , to compile a collection that, for me, sounds like Christmas. Enjoy. (Well Seasoned)

7 Responses to “of Seasoning”

  1. Alice said

    Adore this. Really adore you. This is an absolute triumph. Wish I’d written it.You are so nostalgic about Christmas…very endearing. And of course, beautifully written. Per usual.

  2. Malo said

    Such a beautiful reminder of the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, I may have borrowed the line from Andy Williams. Your description of Nana’s overheated living room and stack of LP’s warmed my heart. She was a remarkable woman with the wisdom and strength I could only hope to possess in this lifetime. Sitting at her feet, holding her well seasoned hand, and listening to her countless stories will always be one of my dearest and most cherished “adult” Christmas memories. To be in her presence was an honor and privilege. Thank you.

    • ofreh said

      Malo,
      I’m so touched that you read it and it could remind you of that time. A time that I often recall with fondness as well. ‘Cept, of course, that you endeared yourself so much to everyone, especially Nana, that I’ve yet to hear the end of it. “You know you’ll never find another like her, don’t you?. Loser!” Heh.
      Merry Christmas to you and yours!

      • Malo said

        That’s too sweet. I’ve always been a huge fan of your California uncles and cousins. Merry Christmas to you and Happy birthday today…you will always be eight days younger and better looking than Brad Pitt by the way.

  3. Mother said

    Santa are you still hanging in the desert ? Your beloved owner hung you, but if he wants to pass the buck l will take the blame again & again.

    • ofreh said

      She may be pulling my leg here, my Mother. If so, I am guilty of that which I have so strongly condemned others…the inability to grasp irony.
      She is too right though. For something that I profess undying attachment, I was a demented steward.
      I did, in fact, construct a noose and inflict Santa to countless executions from the large tree in our backyard.
      Looking back, it’s a wonder the neighbors never alerted the authorities.
      I did, in the solitary war games of my childhood, use him as battlefield wounded, employing Mom’s red fingernail polish to his face for affect, rushing him to the coffee table, spread with a white cloth, for emergency surgery. He always survived, to be wounded or executed again, depending on my macabre disposition.
      I’ve read, that in investigating the motives of sociopathic serial killers, looking back into their childhoods can be very revealing. If there is any small animal abuse, fire starting etc etc.
      While there were none of those examples, it could be understood the concern of a neighbor to look out their sliding glass door in the morning, coffee in hand, to see a stuffed Santa Claus, face dripping red, hanging from a tree.
      They’d have found no actual buried bodies though….I swear.

  4. Chad said

    The sodomy filled celebration of alcoholism that is Bad Santa may be my favorite of all the holiday fare. Followed closely by Lethal Weapon (Jingle Bell Rock over the opening credits) and Die Hard.

    If someone says “Nightmare Before Christmas” is their favorite, you can be reasonably sure you’re talking to someone who shouldn’t be reproducing.

    Hope all is well with you during Christmas, brother.

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