I no longer listen.
As the years pass, Christmas songs have simply lost their magic. I am a grown man. My sons are grown. If it were not for the grandbabies, I would have little motivation to do anything on Christmas Day other than say a simple prayer of gratitude, which I plan to do anyway.
Note that I did not say Christmas carols, which are a different subject altogether. My favorite is Sweet Little Jesus Boy, a negro spiritual written in the ’30’s by the late Robert MacGimsey, a white man from Mississippi. I suppose he and I are some sort of racists in today’s America. I contend we both know a good carol when we hear (or write) one.
A couple of weeks ago the Redhead and I went to church to hear the dreaded “Christmas Musical.” She sings in the choir, so I sort of had to go. Men with wives, red-haired or otherwise, understand the “had to” part in the last sentence. “At least I will get to hear some of the old carols,” I thought. “Maybe they will get me in the Christmas spirit.”
Imagine my surprise when the choir opened with “Sleigh Ride.” You know the one. “It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.”
And there you have it. That is why I no longer listen to those old Christmas songs. They are outright lies for someone who lives in the deep South.
I am from a small town in central Alabama. When I was a kid, there was a Western Auto downtown on Broadway. I went there a lot with my dad because it was an auto parts store, something he needed frequently back in the day when you had to fix your own car. And trust me, dad spent a lot of time fixing.
Western Auto was more than today’s auto parts store. Between walls covered with hoses, belts, and batteries were shelves lined with things that kept a boy occupied while his dad and a greasy guy looked for a water pump for a ’63 Rambler. Bicycles (Western Flyer was the store-brand, a forgotten piece of Americana), sporting goods (from the Red Ryder BB gun to the more tempting Revelation 20-gauge single-shot shotgun) and other merchandise made a boy yearn for that glorious “some day, when you’re all grown-up.”
But the one thing that got my complete attention, every year just before Christmas, was the Flexible Flyer sled that sat on the top shelf in the center aisle at the very front of the store. I would stand there, transfixed, hoping that Santa Claus might see fit to leave it under our lop-sided red cedar Christmas tree. I dreamed of dashing through the snow, bells jingling, while my mom and dad went walking through a winter wonderland on that white Christmas.
Every year I asked my dad for that sled. Every year he said “No.”
Finally one year, exasperated, he stated the obvious. “Son, it don’t snow here.”
Seems like I would have figured that out in eight or nine years of living, but my childish hopes were still anchored in those lying Christmas songs. Alabama Christmas is not white. It may be gray, which I suppose sort of approaches white, but any precipitation is drop and not flake.
And yet even here the lies continue. Some time back three ol’ boys from north Alabama made a pile of money with the song “Christmas in Dixie.” It goes “Christmas in Dixie, it’s snowing in the pines…”
Liars. I will not listen to your propaganda. There won’t be any snow here on Christmas Day. Not this year. Not ever.
Still, after all these years I have to wonder.
Did any kid’s daddy ever buy that sled?