Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Kramden on Kristmas
It was a much bigger deal when I was a kid. Early on, I remember big trees with a truckload of presents for my sister and myself, all crammed under the lights and ornaments and fake snow, which smelled awful and tasted worse. Then, after tearing through the gifts, wrapping paper covering every square inch of the living room, we would run out into the real snow of the Adirondack mountains and make snow angels and forts and we could see the smoke rising from every chimney in Brainardsville, New York. It was pretty special.
Then life happened and as we got older our family fell apart, so Christmas was kind of awkward, and became something to be endured rather than celebrated. One part of the day was spent at my dad’s, where I lived, and the other at my mother’s, where my sister lived. Those Christmases were not fun, and I would have rather just not bothered. But that was a long time ago, and a million miles away. These days, I don’t really celebrate the day, but a strange thing has happened. I really appreciate the day. Not for religious reasons—I’m not religious—but for the outpouring of infectious goodwill and joy that I see it brings to other people. I like the music—Christmas songs have the most beautiful melodies—Do You Hear What I Hear?, God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen, Oh Holy Night, those tunes are timeless and achingly beautiful, and modern Christmas songs like Happy Christmas(War is Over) by John and Yoko Lennon, and I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake are also big favorites.
I also used to like to watch the classic Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer on television. The man who wrote it lived near my house in upstate New York. His name was Romeo Muller, and he looked exactly like the Santa character on the show. In the summers he would drove around in a big convertible car and it always seemed like High Falls, New York was Santa’s summer home because we would see Mr. Muller in his car.
Maybe my favorite Christmas memory, though, is a small part of another old television show. I was an avid fan of the Honeymooners, and watching Ralph and Alice and the Nortons was a nightly event for years. Though there were only thirty nine shows made, and one of them was a Christmas show, called The Night Before Christmas. In that show, as usual, Ralph does something stupid, and has to do a mea culpa at the end, while pacing the floor, nervous at what Alice is going to say. This time though, the story line ends with a happy note, and Ralph gets to wax philosophical rather than apologetic. To this day it remains my favorite meditation on the season, and I can repeat it from memory. And thanks to Youtube, I can now watch it anytime I want to, which is often.
Ralph: "You know something, sweetheart? Christmas is -- well, it's about the best time of the whole year. You walk down the streets, even for weeks before Christmas comes, and there's lights hanging up, green ones and red ones. Sometimes there's snow. And everybody's hustling some place. But they don't hustle around Christmastime like they usually do. You know, they're a little more friendlier -- if they bump into you, they laugh, and they say 'Pardon me' and 'Merry Christmas.' Especially when it gets real close to Christmas night. Everybody's walking home; you can hardly hear a sound. Bells are ringing; kids are singing; snow is coming down. And boy, what a pleasure it is to think that you've got someplace to go to. And the place that you're going to has somebody in it that you really love. Someone you're nuts about. Merry Christmas."
My sentiments exactly. Merry Christmas, everyone.