Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do You Hear What I Hear? Memory Lane

Music triggers memories. For me, holiday songs especially bring to mind special times.

One of those music memories sprouts from my earlier years, I think I was eight or nine years old. A stray dog had decided to stick around our small-town, middle class neighborhood home, probably because I couldn’t resist feeding the poor mutt. It didn’t take long for me to consider her my dog, and eventually she was allowed into the house. I called her Christy (absolutely no idea why) or Sneaker because during dinner she was not allowed in the kitchen, but she, with the utmost stealth, always ended up under my feet by the end of the meal.

Anyway, my dad, Christy and I would take walks down our quiet alley in the evenings. Close to Christmas, during these outings, we sang (probably too loudly) the 12 Days of Christmas over and over. The snow crunched under our boots, Christy’s leash clinked against her collar as she sniffed drifts and licked snowflakes, our misty breath accompanied our voices echoing off the garages.

I enjoyed those times.

The 12 Days of Christmas showed up again later in my life, marking another occasion as special. Although I’m an only child, I have lots of cousins. When we get together, usually at Christmas, it’s guaranteed to be a good time. When we were younger, we got to putting on an annual Christmas program. We’d do something different every year, create the entire thing ourselves, make programs (one of which is memorable for a certain spelling error that otherwise would have gotten us all a mouthful of soap if it had been anything other than a mistake!), and advertise to the parents time and place of the performance. One year, we raided my uncle’s closet for his suit coats, robed the littlest cousins in them, and made them lay in the middle of the “stage” as we sang God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (another fond music memory).

Well, one of the last performances we gave consisted of ten of us cousins and two of our husbands (including my Daniel) singing the 12 Days of Christmas. We each had a number, of course since there were twelve of us. Our ages ranged 20-something down to 8ish, something like that. And we have some crack-ups in the family. So the whole thing proved entertaining and we did manage to complete the song after a few major attacks of uncontrollable laughter.

I’ll never forget that.

Another special music memory… First holidays since getting married, Waterside in Norfolk, VA, New Year’s Eve party, outside in chilly air that smelled of the ocean waves blending in with the music, dancing to canned Christmas tunes with my Daniel.

I’ve got several others. And I’d say 90% are happy memories.

But Christmas also brings sad things to mind for some, especially if you’ve lost someone recently or during the holidays, or someone whose absence leaves a noticeable and painful hole even if the memories of that person are the happy ones.

Christmas always makes me think of my grandmother. If I have any traditions in the celebrating of Christmas, they came from her. Baking all the Christmas goodies including Jesus’ birthday cake, decorating the tree and setting up the manager beneath it, Christmas Eve candlelight service singing carols and sharing prayers and giving thanks, and many other traditions that are probably a lot like yours.

So when I listened to this Steven Curtis Chapman song Home for Christmas the first Christmas after my grandmother passed away, I sat down and cried. It’s a happy/sad song, one that resurrects vivid memories, but one that, in the end, makes me rejoice. (click to listen)

Her house was where the family gathered every Christmas eve;

A feast was set on the table and gifts were placed beneath the tree.

Everything was picture perfect, Grandpa would laugh and say,

That woman spends the whole year getting ready for this day.

One year the leaves began to fall and her health began to fade;

We moved her to a place where they could watch her night and day.

But she kept making plans for Christmas from her little room;

She told everyone, I’ll miss you but I’ll be leaving soon.

I’m going home for Christmas and I’m going home to stay;

I’m going home for Christmas and nothing’s gonna keep me away.

I’ll be with the ones I love to celebrate the Savior’s birth;

This gift will be worth more to me than anything on earth.

I’m going home, home for Christmas.

All the leaves outside have fallen to be covered by the snow;

The family comes with food and gifts and Grandpa comes alone.

There’s a sadness in our silence as the Christmas story’s read,

And with tears, Grandpa reminds us of the words that Grandma said.

I’m going home for Christmas and I’m going home to stay;

I’m going home for Christmas and nothing’s gonna keep me away.

She’ll be face to face with Jesus as we celebrate His birth,

And this gift will be worth more to her than anything on earth,

‘Cause she’ll be home.

And as we sing ‘Joy to the World’ I can’t help thinking

Of the joy that’s shining in her eyes right now.

And though our hearts still ache, we know that as we celebrate,

She’s singing with the herald angels and heaven’s glowing on her face.

And now she’s home for Christmas and now she’s home to stay;

She’s home for Christmas, and nothin’ could’ve kept her away.

She’ll be face to face with Jesus, as we celebrate His birth,

And this gift will be worth more to her than anything on earth.

She’s home, she’s home for Christmas.

She is home, she’s home for Christmas.

I hope, even if you’re missing someone specific this year, that you will be blessed with happy memories of the past and the opportunity to make new happy memories as you celebrate holy, wonderful, life-changing Christmas.

I’d love to hear the songs that bring to your mind particular memories…

Thanks for visiting Dry Ground! Merry Christmas in TWO days! Wow!

(photos by


KM Wilsher said...

Man, this makes me want to be a cousin! I love this post. What great memories of your Grandma. She must have been sweet, cause you are!