I got a call from a friend this morning and during our conversation he asked me if I was ready for Christmas. I answered I wasn't. I spent most of yesterday frantically knitting trying to finish up Christmas scarves and blankets. I have visions of my sisters getting their scarves with the knitting needles still attached. When they ask about it, I'll just say that the needles are a... decoration, that's it, a decoration, like a broach. Yeah, I won't get away with it.
I am not ready for Christmas. It doesn't feel like Christmas yet. Maybe when the nephews come home from college it will. But ever since moving down to California from Oregon, Christmas hasn't really felt like Christmas without the changing of the seasons. Without that first snow on Halloween to herald the coming of winter. But I suspect there's more to it than that.
I have gotten older. Time is different now.
As I write this I am listening to the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas. It is always the first Christmas album I listen to in the season. My dad was a big jazz fan. Growing up we were listening to Vince Guaraldi before the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I know that's why the show is so comforting and the music is so comforting now.
Growing up Christmas Specials were... special. Growing up Christmas Specials were an event. As children growing up we planned our week around them. We looked forward to the Christmas shows. We anticipated them. I think that is what made the days seem longer -- the anticipation. A time made special by the ritual of the Christmas Special.
We would gather around the TV but only after all the homework was done, the dishes were washed, dried and put away, baths were had, and fresh pajamas were on. It was a magical time. We would light a fire in the fireplace and sit in front of the TV with a cup of hot chocolate and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. We knew that Charlie Brown, or Frosty, or Rudolph was a once in a year-- and to us at that time it seemed like a once in a lifetime--event. We made it an event.
One of my favorite Specials was one of Bing Crosby's. I believe it was in 1977 and David Bowie just happened to stop by Bing Crosby's to use the piano. Bing and David in a most surreal pairing ended up singing one of my now favorite songs of the season-- "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth". And that is the magic of Christmas specials. You didn't get to hear music like that without the magic of a Christmas Special.
I think that's what made that Special so special. Even while I was watching that show I knew what I was watching was fleeting. We didn't have DVDs, DVRs, instant streaming, smart phones, or even VCRs when many of these specials came on. We knew we had to be in the moment when we watched them. We knew we had to be present. We had to be there. Friday night at 8 o'clock, or whenever; it was not going to be shown again.
After the show was over we would start decorating the house or the tree. We would usually go out and cut down our own tree with a permit in BLM land. In the snow, in our station wagon, vowing this year would be the year that we would not get stuck, or lose my brother, or run out of hot chocolate. All stories that have melded into our family's mythology. Somehow the trees seemed smaller out in open land, and invariably we would have to cut a foot off when we brought it into the house. Nothing says Christmas like the fragrance a fresh tree.
Time seems so scattered now. But memories are not. The other night when Charlie Brown came on, I got a call from my sister. Charlie Brown's on! So we watched it, together, separately, each of us in our own house. Perhaps a new tradition is born.