Who doesn’t love a schmaltzy cozy oozy Christmas song? Don’t answer that.
Who’s excited for presents on their tree? No? You mean you don’t tie small candies and simple gifts to the branches of your tree on Christmas Eve and then light all of the real candles? Yeah, that’s probably a good thing. As nostalgic as we are around here, there are some traditions better left in the past.
“Presents on the tree” – a line from this week’s song – was actually not a poetic modification (as some people may have thought, ahem) but a reference to the old tradition of tying presents to the tree rather than wrapping them. Ornaments and ribbons now serve as our presents on the tree while our bigger gifts are wrapped and waiting underneath.
And then there are the bigger gifts, that can’t be wrapped. The people with whom we share the gift of life. The people for whom we would trade all of our presents just to have them be present with us.
When Bing Crosby recorded this song in 1943, it struck a chord that resonated deeply with soldiers and civilians alike. Hardly a soul was untouched by the terror of World War II, and everyone played a part in the country’s collective sacrifices of resources, from pantyhose to sugar to farm hands. Nearly every family in America was missing someone. Whether dead, or deployed, or displaced to work in the cities while much of the workforce was off to war, someone somewhere was not home for Christmas. In a time of utter disconnectedness and longing, this song became a shared experience that stirred souls to hope and lament and miss and belong all at the same time.
I, and most of my peers, have for the most part had the luxury of not feeling any personal sacrifice in connection with wars during our lifetime. My dad was in the Navy, but the only way that really affected me is that it made Puerto Rico my birthplace. My own brother was deployed with the Army on multiple occasions, returning safely home each time. My friend’s brother had a different fate, and her family is facing their first Christmas without him.
And then there are the friends whose family members have returned home physically, but internally they will never be the same.
Did you know that our bodies don’t really know the difference between what is actually occurring and what we imagine to be occurring? This works for better and for worse. Maybe that is why this song is so powerful. It creates a space to be exactly where you want to be no matter where you are. For those two minutes, as far as your mind and heart are concerned, everything will be ok.
While the realities of our circumstances may not reflect our desires in this moment, what would happen if we let ourselves imagine our dreams more often? Call me corny, but I’m thinking that just as a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (no, I’m not sorry) then a minute spent thinking about good things is worth a million good moments that are never pondered.
If you are with your special people during this season, that’s wonderful.
If you are missing your special people, that’s wonder-ful too. Beyond the wonder that you have special people to miss, wonder what they are doing, wonder what you would be doing if you were together, wonder what you would laugh at, wonder what treats and decorations would mean the most to them, and wonder what you would say.
Take a moment today and spend some time in your most perfectly happy home, even if only in your dreams.
Saturday SongNotes from the Birds
This article was originally written in 2018 for Nathan and Naomi’s weekly emails that feature a song they recorded and some words about it. The hope is that your mind and heart be stirred. Want to get the Saturday SongNotes? click here