I Need a Little Christmas Now

When I was a freshman in high school, I had an amazing teacher for ninth-grade  English.

Miss Hamilton was the sort of person you remember — one who made an effort to help her students learn and appreciate the English language, to see it as more than words on a page.

For a kid like me, this probably wasn’t difficult because, at that age, I lived mostly through books.

But, Miss Hamilton did something I’ll always remember, something truly above and beyond.

She arranged a field trip for a group of her students to see a musical at the Goodyear Theater in Akron.

Just consider that for a moment. She voluntarily took a mixed group of 14-year-old adolescents out in public to see a musical.

Not a special, day production meant for school children, you understand, but for an evening performance,  as if we were regular people who just happened to be a little younger than the rest of the audience.

Like I said, she was amazing!

If I recall correctly (and I hope I do), her confidence in us was not misplaced. We all showed up, dressed in our finest, and enjoyed the play.

That show was “Mame.”

Now, I don’t remember a whole lot about the play (it was forty-five years ago, after all) except for a fox hunt where Auntie Mame somehow managed to capture and keep the fox alive, and this song.

It’s “We Need a Little Christmas,” sung by Lucille Ball. I actually prefer Angela Lansbury’s version, but the YouTube video of her singing is just an audio clip.

The lyrics include the following:

“Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before
My spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking.

I may be rushing things
But deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas,

Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.

It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry.
So climb down the chimney.
Put up the brightest string
Of lights I’ve ever seen.

Slice up the fruitcake.
It’s time we hung some tinsel
On that evergreen bough,
For I’ve grown a little leaner,

Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,

And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
Need a little Christmas now.”

That night in the theater has lived in my memory for more than forty years, not only because of Miss Hamilton and all she did for her students, but also because of that song.

You see, Christmas, and the weeks leading up to it, have always been magical for me.

There have been many Christmas seasons that were special without much effort on my part: as a child; that first Christmas morning with The Engineer; and when Darling Daughter was at the delightful age when she was old enough to feel the joy and still young enough to believe in Santa.

But, there have also been many that were a bit — how shall I put this? — challenging.

The years in college when my parents were in the throes of a divorce, and it felt like my family was falling apart.

The one when I discovered — on December 23 — my first so-called husband was a pathological liar and probably a bit of a sociopath.

The year I realized The Engineer didn’t feel quite  the same way about holidays.

After Darling Daughter moved out, into her own adult life, and I once again had to decorate the tree alone.

Last year, as I tried to make the season all come together while coping with Mom’s crushed elbow and subsequent dependence, as well as my own six-week bout of bronchitis.

And this year, with Mom once more in the hospital with pneumonia and congestive heart failure, bruised and battered from another fall.

I’m not looking for pity here. We’ve all gone through times like this.

Sometimes it’s hard to feel merry. And that’s when you need a little Christmas the most.

So, here’s the thing: After discovering The Engineer wasn’t as crazy about the holiday as I am — and to be fair, not many people are — I sat down and thought about what made  Christmas special to me.

Because it’s not fair to expect other people to make you happy.

To my surprise (and great satisfaction because it proved I wasn’t as shallow as I’d begun to think I was), I realized it wasn’t getting the perfect gift. Instead, it was the joy of giving them, the pleasure in baking and surprising others with goodies, sending out cards, holiday music, and enjoying the holiday lights on houses and our own little tree.

Even if I have to decorate it alone.IMG_2402Sometimes you have to make Christmas yourself.

Last year, that meant no Christmas cards because, well, I discovered I had more important things to do — like take care of Mom. And myself.

This year, I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I do know it will still be Christmas.

So, when I came home from the hospital today, after I worked on the paperwork involved in being the one responsible for an elderly relative, I forced myself to have a little Christmas.

Though I really only felt like sitting on the couch and watching Premier League football, I opened the seventeenth door on my chocolate truffle Advent calendar. And my cheese Advent calendar. And my wine Advent calendar.

We Christmas nuts are big on Advent calendars.

Then, I put on a Johnny Cash Christmas CD. It was an old one, full of hymns sung in his curiously pleasing, yet not actually melodic, way.

Since I was brought up in a churchgoing, country-music-listening household, this made me feel quite sentimental.

It was perfect.

I baked mince pies — straight from the Walkers Mince Pie box and made fudge — two kinds — to add to the 7-Layer Bars I’d already made.

With all that’s going on, I’m concentrating on the easy recipes. Maybe I’ll make the more challenging ones another time.

I packed up some goodie plates for my friends at the library and the post office, and for the nurses at the hospital who have been so kind to Mom.

Finally, I looked at my meal plans for the days around Christmas, trying to streamline them enough to make cooking a bit simpler, and yet still have meals that have most of what The Engineer, Darling Daughter, and I consider necessary Christmas traditions.

Sure, I’d love to do it all — every cookie, every meal course, every enjoyable event — but sometimes life intervenes.

One thing I’ve learned from my mom is to remember — no matter how much we (I) would like to believe otherwise — we aren’t in control, and sometimes we have to roll with the punches.

She’s in the hospital, with two black eyes and a swollen nose, struggling to breathe, with all dignity gone, confused about what’s happening to her, and still, she manages a smile for anyone who enters her room.

If she can do that, certainly I can somehow create a Christmas.

Because it’s times like this you really need one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “I Need a Little Christmas Now

  1. I wish I’d had that song in my head seven years ago when I lurched numbly from the doctor’s office on December 23 with a breast cancer diagnosis in my hand, no partner and no job. It was hard to find any cheer that year. In the years since there have been tough Christmases, lonely Christmases and blah Christmases, but I refuse to let the terminally unexcited around me stop me putting up (alone) my tiny tree, my silver and pink baubles, my twinkly lights and my candles. Nor do they stop me baking a Christmas cake which only I will eat, and mince pies, ditto. My Australian family subscribe to a hot summertime, laid back, laissez-fair kind of Christmas. I’m from the frozen north, and I want all the bells and whistles!
    If I’d had your email address, I’d have sent you the e-card I’ve made and sent to everyone else. It features snowflakes… Joy to the world, and to you and yours, my friend.

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    • What a horrible time to get your diagnosis! And yet, it happens every day, holiday season or not. Thankfully we’ve both learned life (and Christmas) are what you make them. Blessings to you and swift healing. Sending a hug too. šŸŽ„šŸŽ„šŸŽ„

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  2. Funny, I was still at BHS then, and I don’t remember Miss Hamilton. Between 3 High Schools, I barely remember anyone! That was an awesome thing she did. I cannot imagine a teacher doing that now. She would probably get fired. I have a few Christmas days that I look back on. In 1970, my Great Aunt Stella died. They called Grandma and I’d never seen her cry like that. 1971 when I was too sick to go with the family to Aunt Norma and Uncle Dick’s. I was home with Mom. That year (must have been a bad year) the only gifts were a typewriter and an organ ( kind of like what keyboards are now). So I got to play with them while everyone was gone. Of course, that was Mom’s last Christmas. April 8, 1972, my Uncle’s 44th birthday. Dad would turn 44 in 4 days. Then the “Mildred” years, which were awful. Made it through to find a great man that turned out to be a great husband. He liked live trees, so we had them for a few years. Those years are happy memories, especially when, as you said, your child is small. Natalie is still mad a me for telling her the truth about the reindeer food we used to get at the Brunswick library! (I’d sprinkle it on the sidewalk, then I’d move it to the grass when she was sleeping. Look! They ate the food!) I don’t get into the holiday spirit like I used to, but I enjoy seeing family. We started an appetizer Christmas a couple years ago. It’s better than a full meal. There was always SO much food! I would dread July 4th more than anything (when Scott died.) But after 21 years, that is faded memory, too. I have a great life now, and Dad is still going, although slower. I still have my brothers and sisters, cousins, and my Aunt. Then all of my in-laws. Life is Good, indeed!

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    • To lose your husband so young must have been so hard. I can’t imagine it.

      It was incredible even then that Miss Hamilton would do such a thing.

      I think life teaches us sometimes we have to make the best of the situation, which makes me think your appetizers idea is a great one.

      Hoping you have a peaceful holiday spent with family.

      P.S. Mom us coughing less and feeling well enough to want to go home. So that’s good. Dr wants to make sure she’s completely well before sending her back to Burbank though, a strategy I completely agree with!

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      • The first 5 years or so were really tough, since Natalie was small and I needed to work. Lots of angst about finances, but lots of support from family and friends. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that is why my life is so good right now. I’m glad your Mom is feeling better. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy New Year!

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      • I can’t begin to imagine how hard that would be but am so glad you had family and friends to help. As for Mom, yesterday wasn’t so great, but she sounded better last night. I’ll be going to the hospital soon and maybe that trend will continue. šŸ¤žšŸ¤žšŸ¤ž

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  3. I wish you all the best that Christmas has to offer. I admire your strength and your ability to roll with the punches. I pray that your mom is comfortable and that she is being well cared for. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Many blessings and smiles from Sheila and I.

    Stay safe and warm.

    Walt

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    • Thanks so much, Walt. As I said, we’ve all been there. And, as for rolling with the punches, I learned that from The Master – my mama. šŸ™‚ I just find it hard to watch her decline because she’s always so upbeat. Even when she’s cranky.

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  4. I always enjoyed the feast we had at Christmas. I remember the tunes my mom played on the piano changed from regular show tunes to Christmas tunes. I must say I always liked Halloween better as a child, more magical. Now as an adult, I appreciate the significance that we’re celebrating the birth of Christ. It’s best to partake of those holiday rituals that make us happy and maybe downsize or eliminate the ones that are not joyful, or just cause more work or stress.

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