As my mind drifted away from the conversation at our table and focused on the music, I began to notice I knew almost every song in his repertoire by heart. Some songs were from my mother’s era—great emotional tunes of the 60’s and 70’s that she played over and over when we were growing up. Others were melodies from my high school and college days in the late 80’s and early 90’s. What I noticed was that I could remember exact moments associated with each and every one of them. I could recount people and places and events within the first few notes. As I drove home, I realized my life was like a soundtrack marked by a series of great moments tainted by plenty of unpleasant ones…and then the tears came…and then the words came.
Beautiful. She also reminds us of the devastating classic, “Please Come Home for Christmas” by Charles Brown.*
Lord, that’s devastating. I’ve worn out his album Cool Christmas Blues. My kids don’t get it at all, of course. In a way I’m grateful they don’t. They’ll understand it later, I suppose, as adults do. Until then it’s poppy, upbeat, sing-songy music. Songs in major keys.
We say Christmas is for kids, and I’m not going to argue. But Christmas for kids is Frosty and Rudolph and platters of sugar cookies. Adults have more refined palates. My tastes run to coffee and dark chocolate; my taste in music is for all the pining, longing, aching songs of Christmas. (Sinatra’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is the one that gets me.)
*I don’t know much about Charles Brown. Wikipedia says:
“Born in Texas City, Texas, Brown graduated from Central High School of Galveston, Texas in 1939 and Prairie View A&M College in 1942 with a degree in chemistry. He then became a chemistry teacher at George Washington Carver High School of Baytown, Texas, a mustard gas worker at the Pine Bluff Arsenal at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and an apprentice electrician at a shipyard in Richmond, California before settling in Los Angeles in 1943.”
Wow. What a life. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it. May you and your families have much joy. Both the unadulterated joy of a nine-year-old tearing into presents, and the melancholy, nostalgia-infused joy of an adult watching the scene and smiling through sad eyes.
This song always reminds me of my grandfather, who was so upset by his youngest brother’s death in World War II he could barely speak about war, or his brother, for the rest of his life. You can listen to my podcast episode about my grandfather as a young boy, a story that was a gift to my own boys, by following this link.