When I was a little girl, I lived in a house that overlooked Tampa Bay. Built with a sideways Charleston-esque flavor (an homage to my parents’ early married years in that city), it had a long upstairs porch with one of those great swings. My absolute favorite indulgence was to go out there, plop on the swing and listen to Christmas carols while watching the July sun sparkle on the water.
Yes, you read that right. The JULY sun.
I loved Christmas carols so much I listened to them all year long. Unfortunately, this was before every kid had headphones, so the neighbors had to listen to them, too. My father’s twin brother lived next door, with his army of sons, and, as you can imagine, I got a LOT of grief.
I didn’t care. Boys were dumb, anyhow. I thought “O Holy Night” was one of the most blissful sounds in the universe, and I couldn’t fathom why the pleasure should be limited to a few short weeks.
(Also I didn’t have a clue about delayed gratification. Still don’t, for that matter.)
However, I finally did learn to wait for Christmas carols. My son accomplished with one sweet request what all the years of teasing never could have done. You see, Boychild’s birthday is right around Thanksgiving, and he’s always felt sympathy for the stepsister status of that holiday. He’s convinced that when people start Christmas too soon they’re cheating Thanksgiving of its moment of glory.
Very early in his life, he asked me not to decorate or play carols until after turkey day. I’m even mushier about Boychild than I am about “O Holy Night,” so there was no question. From that moment on, no carols in July. Or August. Or September. Or…
And you know what? The songs are even more piercingly sweet than ever, now that I have to wait. I don’t shop on Black Friday. I jump out of bed at the crack of dawn and pull out my holiday CDs.
“O Holy Night” still tops my list—and, even today, many of my favorites are the ones my parents owned, the ones I pinched from their collection for those summer days on the porch.
I adore Dean Martin’s “It’s A Marshmallow World,” Bing Crosby’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Nat King Cole’s “A Cradle in Bethlehem” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “The Magi.” I can’t hear Bing sing “Christmas in Killarney” without seeing my father’s smile, which may be the loveliest present of all.
How about you? Do you have a starting bell for carol playing? Which songs are your favorites?