Ed’s note: This is not part of the regularly scheduled Christmas writing. I simply have not had the time the past couple of days. So hopefully I will get to that after work this evening. Until then, here is a chapter from the book of the same title. If you like this short work of fiction, you can head on over to Amazon and pick up your very own copy of 25 Songs of Christmas.
It first happened this year on Election Day. It was the first Tuesday in November. I hate election day.
I know, I know. Most of you are thinking, “so do I.” But my reasons have nothing at all to do with politics. I am not here to talk about our broken electoral system or the poor choice of candidates we always seem to nominate for the top offices of our land. Well… I guess I just did talk about it. But no more. My reasons for hating election day stretch all the way back to the first time I was old enough to vote. I didn’t. Not that year.
I still can remember that election day like it was yesterday, even though it has now been more than twenty years past. I was sitting in an airport lobby waiting for the first possible flight home when I got the news. I was too late. Less than an hour earlier, after a horrifying night struggling against a traumatic brain injury, my father had died. He got that injury bumping heads with someone on a basketball court. There are some words no eighteen-year-old kid should ever hear and, “I’m sorry, he didn’t make it” are certainly some of them.
Everyone else in America was stepping into those ballot boxes casting votes for candidates. Some part of them knew those votes will make very little difference in the long run. I was thinking along a very different track. I was flying over our country, dazed and broken, trying to make sense of what my world had just become.
That was more than half a lifetime ago now. Time has been gracious enough that it isn’t something that breaks me apart every time I think about my father’s death. Oh, there is the loss, but I am hardly the only person who has ever suffered a tragedy. Even in my own family, I have seven other siblings. Most of them are much younger than me. They did not get to enjoy as many years and memories with such a great man as my dad was. Honestly, at this point, there are years where I almost make it the whole way through the day without one thought of the anniversary coming to mind.
Even still, I never fail to be in a down mood on Election Day. Today was no exception. It wasn’t necessarily a horrible day, and students didn’t really behave any worse than normal. If anything, the fact that it was so cold and cloudy seemed to put a damper on everyone. I didn’t have to struggle with the expected level of eager energy that comes from working with multiple classes of first and second graders. No, the classroom was pretty standard. But I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I just wasn’t in the mood to do anything more than the minimum required to function.
I got home and sat on the couch watching… something. Oh yeah, it was an episode of The Orville. This was the episode where that kid security officer puts herself through some security simulation. She wants to prove that she is worthy of the rank that given, even though she is so young and insecure. I really do like the show. It reminds me of the old Star Trek shows. That day I just wasn’t feeling it. I was restless and moody. It rained for a bit, but then it looked like it had all cleared up. So I figured, “why not take a walk outside to clear my head?”
It was cold. It was bitter cold. Before I had made it two blocks from my house, I was wondering if this was such a good idea after all. My cheeks were turning red, and I pulled my hoodie up and over to keep my ears from feeling the biting wind. It wasn’t a hard wind, but my right cheek and my nose could feel every icy gust that intermittently assaulted me. There were far more brown leaves wet and mushy in the grass, and along the edges of the road than there were hangers-on in the nearly bare trees overhead. A month or two back, this would be a beautiful walk of orange and yellow, violet, red and green. Now, it is grey and brown. It is cold and grey and brown.
Right about the time I reached the park and was about to circle around and head towards home, the streetlights started popping on. You would think these lights would be on a timer, but they all seemed to rebel against conformity. The first one to pop on was about half a block up. Then the one I had just passed came on. It created a sudden shadow before me that, half a second later, disappeared as one more light decided to join the club.
That is when it happened. I was looking up at this most recent light to turn on when I saw it. As big as my thumbnail, a snowflake played in that light as it meandered its way toward the ground. I stopped in my tracks to watch it, and then I saw a second one. Then a third. Then a fourth. Soon there were hundreds of these things gently floating down from heaven. Even the breeze had stopped to gape in awe of their beauty.
I wasn’t the only one to notice winter’s arrival. There were a couple kids who had braved the cold to play at that park. One little boy, about five years old, bundled up in blue, was standing on the platform right at the top of the slide. He threw his arms out wide and sang loud and out of key, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” Then he dove headfirst down that slide laughing with glee all the way.
My gloomy mood could not survive this beauty and childlike glee. The rest of my stroll home took me twice as long as my walk out had been. I walked that way with a smile on my face taking in the beauty of everything I saw. First, the full version of the song that the boy sang played in my head. Then there was another, and another, and another. We are all familiar with the soundtrack songs of Christmas that began dancing through my mind. It had started. The Christmas season had arrived on what has always been one of the gloomiest days of my year.
That snowfall did not last long. Nothing turned white that evening, but it was enough. God had taken a sad and broken day and turned it into a thing of beauty. That is what Christmas is all about. For the next twenty-five days, we are going to explore the soundtrack of Christmas. Some of these songs are great. Some of them I consider awful. But that’s OK. That is what life is like, and Christmas is all about how God stepped out of heaven and joined us in this walk of life. So, for the next few weeks, I encourage you to talk that walk with me. We will use both iconic and obscure songs to explore together the true meaning of Christmas. I will see you again tomorrow, but today… let it snow.