This season finds me in a pensive mood, pondering words to paint what I think, truly, is will-o-wisp as a feeling. How to hold it in our hands once more!
I am thinking back, like Dickens in his story of ghosts and treasured days and Tiny Tim, to what made me fall in love with Christmastime from my first memories. Then, swinging forward to now…and what the world seems to have lost…forsaken…or forgotten as a dream…
So much more than the modern idea of holiday magic.
So much more than all about you and me.
It was the feeling in the air I loved!
At school, it was the way mystery joined hands with anticipation in the miracle of wonder. Simple as reams of red and green paper awaiting our transformation to gaily strung garlands enveloping one end of our room to the other. It was chattering and laughing and wrapping secret Santa gifts with my fellow Brownie members in a room after school…and tasting my first new lifesaver flavor – choco mint! – when my BFF Terri surreptitiously slipped me one. The light in both our eyes as we rolled it on our tongues.
It was standing in the top row of our tiered choir stage, listening to the chittering of all our parents waiting in the audience beyond the curtain, feeling suddenly overwhelmingly shy, yet jittery with the thrill of how we were going to amaze them!
And the way teachers carved STORY as a special hour into our study days… a time to set our minds to picturing scenes in imagination, to falling in love with “The Little Matchgirl,” understanding what made Scrooge bitter, imagining ourselves outside the Bethlehem stable peeking in or slipping across hay to gently caress the cheek of our newborn Lord, feather-touch his eyelashes.
It was the standing side by side in a candlelit church, running my hands over my new and luscious-to-me furry coat, hearing the rapture of Glo-o-o-ria sung out for the first time and wanting to hold it close inside me, forever… (Read MAJESTY – Part One).
And the silly puns and joking laughter as classmates sang out what we thought so hilarious – “C’ya sometime next year!” As though we were fooling each other that it would be months instead of two weeks away…
At home, it was the fragrance of raisins and cinnamon and rolls baking, the scent of fresh pine, the sparkle of lights on a tree. It was the nightly love of darkening everything but that tree, the sitting under it’s golden light, letting the carols coming from our stereo flow silvery moonbeams over me.
It was music from composers and lyricists and tenors who knew and understood the FEELING. For they were writing it across my spirit with words of White Christmas- dreaming and sounds of silver bells on corners ringing and the thought of mysterious-sounding chestnuts roasting. And somehow weaving them as one heart into the greater miracle of Silent Night, The First Noel, O Holy Night… And into the wonder that so much of this heart-stirring, joy singing music came from men of a Jewish background in greats like Irving Berlin and Mel Torme who more than “got” the FEELING. No “Baby, I need ya and let me tell ya all bout me and my needs…” but words and melodies to lift high like bells upon the air…
It was the looking forward to once a year variety specials featuring favorite singers and their families dressed like Dickens carolers of yore and bringing living Christmas cards to our living room. They were all the more magical because we couldn’t tape them… or postpone them. We sometimes even got to stay up later to see them! They came like gifts that must be opened at a set time… as did the beautiful, touching, meaningful films that somehow so easily, charmingly spoke compassion, caring, giving of yourself to others at Christmas and every day to me… and spun Christmas dreams and prayers within me, like silvery threads on our tree.
It was the stars twinkling at the beginning of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” talking of a man who needed prayer and hope and lifting my heart to faith and prayers of my own.
And the jingle bell music of “Miracle on 34th Street” that still gives me that FEELING each time I hear it…the message of believing against all that only SEEMS to be true, the being there to encourage others, the sweetness of heart that came across in this Santa, more like a man of God than a jolly old guy in a red suit.
It was the dancing, singing of Bing Crosby in “Holiday Inn,” “White Christmas,” “Going My Way” that set my own feet to tapping, voice to singing.
And the counting days until we could get together with close friends at their house to watch the announced debut of what sounded so fun – Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol! The falling in love with the Broadway music-sound of it so that some of those songs still ring in my mind… (Ringle, ringle… coins that go jingle…)
It was the dressing up to go downtown with mom and dad and walk through wonderlands of store windows and old department stores of beautiful architecture and all-out decorations, a stunning tree that spanned three floors… not so much to buy, but to become part of, like skaters on an ice pond waltzing to merry music…
Yes, oh yes… like a song of the same name… along with the truest reason of the season, it still is all this Christmas FEELING, I love.
But… it all seems so… missing… in today’s world. Not only not Christ-centered, but overwhelmingly me-centered. What I can get. Who I can get.
Movies and songs that extol the same and talk about the season as a different kind of magic. A time when self fulfilling dreams come true rather than a Father’s-dream come to Presence.
I stand in dumbfounded wonder when I hear so many saying, “I hate this time of year. I hate Christmas music. I can’t wait till it’s over,” “Halloween is my favorite time of year.” And find myself dashing away mist from my eyes over what seems lost.
I want it back for the newest generations, our country, our world. The feeling… in the air. Silver bells… meeting smile after smile… the simple joys. The warmth of His Spirit taking residence in our hearts and reaching out to others in and through us… the caring one to one… the sense that we are one in celebrating the Greatest Gift… and wishing another “Merry Christmas” is considered a blessing to all…
All of these thoughts were spinning as I came out of the mall post office Friday afternoon, along with some commissioned artwork I was planning. I’d just been inside getting quotes for mail costs, when coming out I ran into a friend and neighbor talking away on her cell. She motioned for me to wait, clicked her phone shut and brightly asked, “What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?”
“Why?” I asked.
“I have an extra ticket to a Christmas play, my gift to you – wanna come?”
I had drawings to do and time was getting shorter. But…there it was, in her eyes, in her voice. The feeling in the air I’ve been missing.
“Sounds fun!” I enthused, while quickly figuring how I could still get started on my project.
“K, then,” she said, “I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 1!”
I couldn’t even anticipate then the silver ornament blessing the next day would bring…
Well, as often happens in lengthy Christmas letter-writing such as this, I’m thinking I’ll pause here for now… pick up on this story of this play tomorrow or so…because it really does deserve the front stage on this page. And I want you each to feel that feeling with me as I try to put you there in a small old church turned theater where heartwarming true story renewed me like a fresh wind…
Please join me here for the ending to this letter…
And if you’ve missed any so far,
Read my introductory Advent post and follow this series of “you’ve got mail” here…
…Question to Ponder…
If you could share something about the way Christmas transforms “the feeling in the air” for you, how would you describe it to a young person today? Do you have to look harder for it today?
© Pam Depoyan
I was preparing several drawings to display at a local bookstore this month, when I thought of including something with Santa. Wanting it to reflect a tender quality, I thought of Miracle on 34th Street… how that story has always seemed more than just about the guy in the red suit to me. How the original portrays such a sweetness among the characters… and even, somehow, speaks to me of God’s miracles.
So, I just finished this sketch last week! (Don’t know why my computer adds a hint of color strangely… but it is all black and white.) I love the way Natalie Wood had her cheek pressed against Edmund Gwen’s (Santa’s), and if you know the story, it’s because he was her dear friend, more than the Santa she didn’t really believe in. I think it resonates to me, speaks of children I’ve loved who have put their cheeks against mine with love… and I am hoping it resonates with you too!
And if anyone would like to purchase a print as perhaps a little of that “Old fashioned Christmas feeling” I’ve just described here… it would be my joy to talk with you about it! Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The pen and ink of the department store is from a greeting card design I drew last year… another of those memories that stay with me… and I hope touches you too.
Please do not copy the artwork without permission.