The Eleventh Day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas…..

1200px-Dr._Elmo_(Grandma_Got_Run_Over_by_a_Reindeer)_with_John_Pinette_12-11-_106

This was not one of my selections. My Mama was not a fan of this song, especially after she became a grandmother, so yeah. Not on my list of favorites. I’d still rather not upset my Mama even now. “Dr. Elmo (Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer) with John Pinette 12-11- 106” by PamWendell – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

I think of the eleven songs I love the most during this holiday season.

1–“Nothing But a Child” by Steve Earle
My Daddy loved Steve Earle, so of course I do too, but this song is very, very special.

2–“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid
This song makes me tear up every single time. “Throw your arms around the world…..” Yes. Let’s. I think we could all use a hug.

3–“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey
It is nigh unto impossible to be in a bad mood when this song is playing. Pretty sure you will find yourself dancing. At least tapping a toe or something.

4–“Christmas Time’s a Coming” by Bill Monroe
Bluegrass. You just can’t go wrong with that. I love this song.

5–“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby
I loved the song years before I ever saw the movie, but after seeing the movie, OH YES. What a great movie–and song.

6–“Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby
A great song and everything, but then there’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” making it an awesome song. Who hasn’t dreamed about a pool in the middle of winter? (Well, some in Georgia this past Christmas actually did get in their pools, but that’s another story.)

7–“Sleigh Ride” by Johnny Mathis
Another happy song. My finger tends to dance along and direct the band to this one. (And also the medley of this song with “Jingle Bells” in “Sleepless in Seattle”–loved it. “Harses, harses, harses, harses, harses…..”)

8–“Dominick the Donkey” by Lou Monte
It’s just fun, y’all. All the children (young and OLD) like to make the donkey sounds.

9–“Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page
This is my favorite version of this song. Yes, I’ve heard all the issues with regards to the song. I still love it. I’ve tried not to, but every since I saw Thora Birch and Lauren Bacall sing it together in “All I Want for Christmas,” I’ve found it delightful.

10–“Last Christmas” by George Michael
Other artists have recorded this, and we have discussed this at great lengths in our home. Other artists “speak” the lyrics. I think George Michael is the only one who actually sings the words. But mostly, I chose this one to make my Cousin smile. Because I love her, and because I know she will miss George over this next year. (or maybe not)

11–“Twelve Days of Christmas” by Straight No Chaser
Seriously, this version right here. If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself. Great entertainment, and I laugh out loud every time I watch it.  Check it out here.

Okay y’all, as I was composing this list, I realized there are a whole lot more than eleven Christmas songs I love.  I really, really love holiday music, and tonight I’m thankful for the music services where I can play this music that brings me joy whenever I want.  I’m not ready for the season to be over yet.

May you all have all the music you love to listen to and lift your spirits.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take Me Home, Kermit

This afternoon the crew and I were over at Leroy’s and Mess Cat’s house for a bit.  My littles were playing with Shaker, running through playing some game that kept them entertained and getting along.

*Win*

At one point, our Princess came running through carrying something and the boys were chasing her.  She stopped next to me, poised the bundle she was carrying just so and said in this special little voice, “It’s not easy being me.”

I looked over and laughed.

She had taken the Kermit the Frog that Shaker got for Christmas and wrapped his arms and legs all around him until he looked like what she deemed “Baby Kermit.”  She has played with this little critter every single time we’ve been at their house since Christmas.  It made me smile that she has such a fascination with him.  I think maybe it’s because of the movie trailers for the new Muppet movie “Muppets Most Wanted” coming out on March 21.  My crew wants to see it because “Daddy loves the Muppets.”

As I was thinking about Kermit and all of the Muppets this evening, my mind wandered to John Denver.

Yes, Rocky Mountain High.  That guy.

He was a guest star on The Muppets and then had two television specials with them.  He developed a lifelong friendship with Jim Henson, you know, the Muppets guy.   I think John Denver’s version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” with the Muppets is the best one ever.  Hands down.  (I heard that song referred to as the “100 Bottles” song of Christmas, and I nearly laughed myself silly.  True.)

I started thinking of John Denver and his music and his untimely death at age 53 in 1997.  He was born the same year as my Daddy.  I grew up with his music.  When we had the awesome backyard Barbie Wedding about thirty-something years ago, my Aunt had a tape of “Annie’s Song” that we played during the wedding (or maybe as the Wedding March?  the brain’s a bit foggy).  That was a great day, as evidenced by the ease with which my mind and heart travelled back to it, with just the mention of John Denver’s name and legacy.

As I played through his other songs in my mind, I thought about Japan.  Yes, Japan.  When we were preparing to leave after our two and half year wonderful, awesome tour there at Yokota and Fuchu Air Bases outside of Tokyo, the Fella’s cohorts from the Japanese Base–Fuchu–threw a Hawaiian themed get-together for us and the other family moving away.  It was at the home of one of the Japanese officers.  All of our friends were decked out in their Hawaiian finest–shirts, leis, and the like.  Our greatest surprise, however, was when they gathered around and our dear friend began to sing, in his best, only slightly broken English, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” which, bless him, came out something like, “I’m reabing on a jet prane, don’t know when I be bock again, oh babe I hate to goooo.”  Bless.  Him.  That’s another great memory.  I will never hear that song and not think of our good friends  and great times in Japan.  And the gift they gave us by singing that song and making the night and our whole time there so very special.

And then, as I thought a little longer about John Denver, I naturally started thinking about my Mama.

Oh take me home, country roads.

My Mama loved that boy.

As I write this, I have “Take Me Home, Country Roads” playing.  Only it’s not John Denver’s voice I hear singing it.

It’s my Mama’s.

She LOVED. That. Song.

It was maybe about twenty years ago that she got a CD of his.  Maybe his greatest hits?  She loved to play it.  When she was mopping, when she was cooking, when she was doing whatever, she loved his music.  But when she loved most to play it was when she was rocking her first grandbaby to sleep in her chair in the living room.

The CD player sat (and still does) on the corner of her big desk in the den.  Around the corner was the door to the living room, where she and Daddy each had a rocker/recliner chair.  Mama would carry our baby girl in there and if she’d forgotten to press play, she’d call out for me or Daddy to do so.  And she’d start singing.  Right along with Mr. John Denver.  Sometimes she’d sing louder to drown out the cries of a tired baby who never wanted to go to sleep for fear of missing out on something.  I might be wrong but I think that “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was the first song on the CD.  I remember Mama would measure how long it took her to get Aub down for a nap by how many songs it would take.  “She was out before ‘Take Me Home’ was all the way through!”  That was a triumph indeed.  I think my baby girl loved her some John Denver too.  John Denver a la her Maemae.

And that’s where my thoughts landed and stayed.  With my Mama.  Not that a day goes by that I don’t think about her.  It’s just interesting the twists and turns my brain takes each day to travel back to be with her again.

So today I’m thankful for Kermit and my Princess’ fascination with him.  I’m especially thankful for Mr. John Denver who has been on this journey with me most of my life.  I’m thankful for friends who used his song to remind us we were loved and appreciated.  Most of all, I’m thankful for his song that let me hear my Mama’s voice once more.  How I miss her and her…..well, every single thing about her.  Even the way she’d call me on stuff I’d rather not be called on.  Yes, every single thing.

Tonight as I was reminiscing and listening to his old songs I love, I came across a new one I’d never heard before by “JD” as Daddy sometimes called him.  (He also called him by his real name Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.)  In it I heard words that touched my heart and helped me feel Mama’s hug, to hold her hand, one more time.

From “The Wings That Fly Us Home” by Joe Henry and John Denver:

The vision of your goodness will sustain me through the cold.
Take my hand now to remember when you find yourself alone: you are never alone.

 

Amen.

Whom Do You Need to Kick Out?

Y’all.  Yesterday was a moment in time I will replay over and over in my mind.

Those fingers were flying y'all.  And what they made that banjo do was nigh unto amazing!

Those fingers were flying y’all. And what they made that banjo do was nigh unto amazing!

Banjo music.

I was done for.  I sat with my toe tapping and my heart singing.  I once heard someone call good stuff for the soul “soul tanning.”  Too true.  I didn’t even recognize the songs but it didn’t matter.  It resonated with me and I was home. Sitting there in one of my favorite places surrounded by friends and family.   I could have sworn my Granny was there too.   The banjo player is a friend of Aub’s from college.  This young woman is going to go places.  She is not even a college graduate and yet she already recognizes the value in preserving, sharing, and celebrating things from the past.  Like this toe-tapping, ear-pleasing music.  I could have listened for days.

As if that weren’t enough, two of my favorite authors took the stage to share about their newest books.  Karen Spears Zacharias (“Mother of Rain”) and Ann Hite (“The Storycatcher).  They shared stories from their pasts and stories from their books.  It was entertaining, informing, and just downright fun.  I love hearing the stories of others about as much as my Daddy did.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Ann Hite and Karen Spears Zacharias sharing "Conversations with Mountain Women." Too much fun.

Ann Hite and Karen Spears Zacharias sharing “Conversations with Mountain Women.” Too much fun.

This morning we were back at our favorite coffeehouse, which hosted the writers’ events.  Ann led a Writer’s Workshop and Karen wrote along with us and shared her thoughts as well.  It was the most encouraging, challenging, and exhausting two and half hours I have had in a long time. (With this crew I live with here, that’s really saying something.)  And did I mention exhilarating?  Yes, that too.  Definitely.

I haven’t written fiction in a long, long time.  There are things you give up and then you look back and think–when?  why?  And I have my suspicions but no definite answer so let’s just say I gave it up.  But today we were writing and sharing fiction based on writing prompts Ann shared with us.  Pen to paper, and lose that editorial voice.

Lose who?  You mean that voice in my head that constantly quirks its eyebrow over word placement, comma usage, and for goodness’ sake, have you completely forgotten how to spell everything?

Yes.  That one.

Perhaps that wasn’t the hardest thing.  Not to nibble on the end of my pen and wonder what this character’s name should be.  What room in the house are they in?  Ooops, I should really rewrite that.  None of this is worth reading anyway.  Might as well just start over.

Hush up.

And just write.

It doesn’t matter if it’s good.  Ann Hite said that too.  It doesn’t matter.  We will write junk on the way to the good stuff, and it’s okay.  Karen said that the reason people get published is that they don’t give up.  Well that would do it, wouldn’t it?

I’ve thought a lot about that voice today.  It used to sound a lot like the voice from my previous life.  And I’ve thought a lot about the voices we let in our heads in general.  Whom do we have to kick out of our heads to allow us to TRY for that full potential?  And what will it take for us to finally do it?

I had a sweet, precious, and tenacious lady who was a patient of mine when I worked with Hospice.  We became fast friends.  She was younger than most of our patients, too early for retirement anyway.  She had a degenerative disease, so her husband had placed her in this nursing facility.  I got the impression that he wasn’t a kind husband to begin with and suspected that she actually might have been better off in the facility than at home.  But she didn’t talk a lot about that.  I soon figured out that she still heard his voice and that it was a negative one.  One day we were visiting and she shared that her husband was on a hunting trip.  We shared stories, and  I complimented her about something.  She pretty much waved it off.  I was being sincere and I said it again.  She said, “No no no.”  I knew she was dealing with all the negativity she’d been handed very possibly for years.  I touched my temple with my pointer and said, “Is that what he says? Is he in there saying all of that?”  My sassy friend cocked her head as best she could, smiled, and pronounced carefully and deliberately, “No.  He’s in the woods.”  She laughed, and I did too.  At least she could keep her sense of humor about her.  But I’m not sure she ever could completely silence his voice.

I am thankful for the voices that are much, much louder than all of the others, especially that negative one from the past.  I hear my Mama saying, “You can do anything you want to do.  Just try.”  Or my Daddy asking me, “Did you not have the time or did you not make the time?”  Believe it or not, that is a positive one.  He reminds me to be intentional with that one.  They both told us girls that we could do the same things that boys could do, not to let that limit us.  I always felt encouraged by them and I still do even though their voices are only echoes of things said in the past.  They said them enough and with so much conviction that I believe their words will always be with me.

I do wonder what voices my children will carry with them and hear in the future.  Will it be the “hurry up we have to go now” or will it be the times I’ve told them what a good job they have done, or how I’ve told them people trump everything–relationships are what is most important in our lives?  I know what I hope it will be, but I really don’t know.  It reminds me of a Brian Andreas quote:  “There has never been a day when I have not been proud of you, I said, though some days I’m louder about other stuff so it’s easy to miss that.”

I need to learn to be louder about the stuff I want them to remember and hear from now on, long after I can’t say it to them myself.  And I need to work on kicking out my own negative voices and dreaming of what I will try if those voices aren’t telling me I can’t.  Scary but exciting, all rolled into one.   Oh, and I definitely need to listen to more banjo music.

Whom do you need to kick out of your head?  Go ahead.  Try it, and dream big.