(The above picture was taken of me when I was 10 years old and in the sixth grade. I had gotten a Schwinn bicycle for Christmas and my father is pictured standing by me smoking his occassional cigar.)
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CHRISTMAS?
I’m driving back from Mississippi December 6, 2004 on a Sunday night in a bad rainstorm and listening to Frank Sinatra’s new Christmas CD and the song playing is Whatever Happened to Christmas. The words of this are really speaking to me and I am trying to figure out what the song is saying to my soul. I recognize feelings of joy as well as sadness. Listen to the words and what they say to you and better still get a copy of this song and see what it is like to hear it put to music.
Whatever happened to Christmas? It’s gone and left no traces,
Whatever happened to the faces or the glow.
Whatever happened to Christmas, to Christmas way of living?
Whatever happened to the giving, the magic in the snow?
Remember the sights and the smells and the sounds,
And remember how love was all around, whatever happened to it all?
Whatever happened to Christmas, bells in the streets are ringing,
Whatever happened to the singing, the songs we used to know.
Where was I, and whatever happened to you?
Whatever happened to Christmas and you?
As I examine these words I feel a sadness for the things that are now gone. We all go through losses and they really come knocking during the Christmas Holidays. This song talks about Christmas being gone and leaving no traces or glows on the faces. The sights, smells, and sounds have disappeared. As I listen to this Jimmy Webb song recorded by Sinatra, July 24, 1968, I am reminded of how we allow life and the unhappy times to rob us of such joy. But I don’t think life’s changes just does the robbing. We are willing participants many times for allowing this to happen to this precious holiday and birth of Jesus.
I admit this song reminds me of people that used to be a huge part of my life that are no longer with me. For instance now gone from me are my mother, father, brother, and two sisters as well as other close family. But they are not the only ones missing.
Also gone are some friends and other people that had made huge impacts on my life. It also reminds me of the little boy I used to be and how the excitement of being a child has left me.
There is another song by Faith Hill called Where Are You Christmas that takes somewhat of a different slant of how Christmas is missing. It talks about the missing laughter, the inability to hear the music, a world that is changing as we change and it asks the question Does that mean that Christmas changes?
As I remember Christmas’s past and what wonderful memories they were, I feel a sadness for the lost Christmas’s but at the same time I feel a warm loving feeling for what used to be. For you see, these times remind me of the positive and the negative.
I remember one Christmas when I was 10 years old and I had gotten that Schwinn bicycle that year. I was in the 6th grade and living on the mill village in Thomaston, Georgia. Man was I tickled to get that bike. It was blue, had a horn and light as well as fenders. I can't remember having a happier Christmas unless it was the year I got the Coca Cola Truck that had the tiny cases of cokes. My dad ,shown in the picture above, would get out an occassional cigar usually for happy times. This was one of those times.
This brief vignette will paint a brief picture of a small snippet in time of my life just before Christmas in 1990. This particular Christmas finds me working at a local mental health facility. I can see all the players so clearly. As a staff we have hung our stockings in the office and the usual ritual sees us bring items to secretly drop into the large Christmas socks. The mood is good for this particular holiday. I see myself going out to my boss’s car, Vincent, to look into his trunk and see the excitement on his face as he shows me what he has gotten for his 5-year-old twin daughters. I can still see that smile on his face as if it were yesterday. Even as this is happening, he is complaining of a mystery back pain. This will become a major downer after the holidays when we learn that he has pancreatic cancer and will actually die two months later.
As I come back to the present, I notice his picture sitting on my desk staring back at me in the usual surprised way when you take someone’s picture unexpected. Vincent, my friend, boss, and buddy, man I miss you.
I realize our memories of Christmas bring both the good and bad memories. They go together. Christmas today is just as beautiful and loving as it has always been. But some of circumstances have changed because of time itself. Our lives are intertwined with many people who have shared times with us and moved on. Some have left a deep impression on our souls as my boss. Those people we will continue to love as long as we are on this earth.
I thank God for all those people and the beautiful times I shared with them. These are memories that are more precious than gold. Today, I just wanted to say how much I honor each of these as well as other precious memories that I will bring out for a visit in the days ahead. I also hope that if I am allowed to stay on this planet for a while longer, I will add other beautiful times to this book of memories.
And I hope that someway, somehow, I become a part of the memories of some of the dear people that have made such an impression on me.
Where was I and Whatever Happened to You? This question is one for the ages. We can all put ourselves back into memories that are so precious. Stop and indulge yourself for a brief while. But move on after a short visit and see if you can brighten someone else’s life with a smile and some good deeds.
If you are like me, when in the throws of remembering the past and some of the pain it presents to you, think on the good things God has done for you and how blessed we really are, then you will feel better. This little exercise I promise will help you. And remember in Faith Hill's song, If there is love in your heart and your mind, you will feel Christmas all the time. Now that is a worthy goal.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year