Well, a small one anyway. I decided it was time to break out the Christmas decorations today: Wreath for front door, check. Christmas tree, check. Manger scene, check and double check. Then, in the midst of this full-on Yuletide mode, while I was looking for some background music to accompany the decorating frenzy, disaster struck. I could not find my favorite CD of Christmas music! I looked on the shelves near the stereo. I asked my attendant and helper to look behind and under said shelves. I looked through my large CD case. I moved and relocated boxes of other stuff. I rooted through boxes of old cassette tapes. No CD.
Mind you, this is not just any CD. This is Christmas Eve with Burl Ives originally released in 1957, briefly re-released on CD in 1998, and now apparently, inexplicably, unavailable once again, except through a specialty retailer for a minimum of $24.99. My copy was a gift from my brother several years ago. This is not just an old record, it is an indelible memory of my childhood. If I hear Burl Ives’s rendition of “The Indian Christmas Carol,” (also known as “Jesous Ahatonia,” or “The Huron Carol,” I am instantly six years old again, transported back in time to the house where I grew up, sitting on the living room floor, in front of the ancient and gigantic record player my parents had, transfixed by the music. My mother could remember the Christmas that she and Dad gave me a tom-tom (a drum, not a GPS) so that I could pound out the rhythm as we sat around the tree and sang the song. I missed hearing the song for years, and once I had it back, it just wouldn’t quite seem like Christmas without it.
The afternoon wore on. I searched again. Still no CD. I checked and rechecked Amazon.com, reluctant to order another copy until I was sure mine was gone for good. I checked iTunes finding nearly every album by Burl Ives except that one. Finally I thought of one last place to check—a CD wallet on my desk, holding miscellaneous items and odds and ends. Success! One CD found. Burl’s dulcet tones rang out once again through my newly festive apartment. I copied the tracks to my little mp3 player so that now I can have a pocket full of Burl and take him wherever I go.
This experience got me to thinking, readers. Is there something in your memories—a special song or story, a piece of music, some food, or some ritual or custom—without which it just doesn’t seem quite like Christmas to you? Or, to put it another way, once you hear that song, observe that custom, or taste that food, you think, “All right, NOW it’s Christmas!” I’d like to hear about it. Please share your thoughts in the comboxes below. Merry Christmas!