[Two years ago, I devoted a Tumblr called $1.98 Advent Calendar from the C-Town to the cause of taking the Baby Jesus on adventures thru the City… plus what was going on back at the manger… plus what candy I got that day… You should check it out. In addition to these regular features, which will remain there, I am moving a few longer essays over to this site for safe-keeping.]
In the past few days, people have begun posting all sorts of Christmas music on to the Facebook. I hide them from my feed. Not that I don’t like Christmas music; I just don’t like other people’s Christmas music. Christmas songs hit me right in the lizard part of my brain stem. They are tied to some of my earliest memories, so it’s really hard for me to accept anything new into there.
A lot of the ones in my feed seem to fit a Venn Diagram mapping the overlap between “gay-ish icon” and “carol.” I’m sure that YouTube clip of Klaus Nomi doing something to “Silent Night” is neat, but it pollutes “Silent Night” to me. “Silent Night” is the sound of my music box bell; it is the sound of my brother-in-law, the Rev. Larry, asking the congregation if “we might hum a verse.” I do not want Klaus Nomi in my brain stem.
One song that is forever lodged in my brain stem. It’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” not just any version. It has to be the version found on the 8-Track of Vol. 6 of WT Grant’s “A Very Merry Christmas.” (This was one of 4 8 Tracks we had —the others are a Ray Coniff Singers compilation, “Tapesty,” and “Catch Bull at Four.”) To me, it wasn’t Christmas until I saw that chubby girl on the front look longingly at the shiny bell. It strikes me now as foolish to let a toddler play with glass ornaments, but, hey, nothing bad ever happens at Christmas. The 8 Track format was perfect for my small hands; put the peg in the hole, and you have music…
And when “Twelve” came on, my sisters and I would go into action. We danced about, re-enacting each of the days. By day 12, it was a cross between The Supremes, Fosse, and The Chicken Dance. I was a transcendent Lord-a-Leaping. Day #1 was the best because we all got to be Partidges. Not the fat bird —real honest-a-goodness Partridges. We all would stand there and shred air guitars like The Partridge Family was Sabbath. Added bonus: I was not forced to “play” drums like my namesake on the show. We all got to share in the Yuletide joy of being rockstars.
One time, our parents were out at bowling, so it must’ve been a Monday. My dad, who worked in the restaurant business for WT Grant, where we got the tape, would sometimes receive “experimental” kitchen appliances. One such contraption was an avocado green vertical broiler/toaster. We slapped some bread in there, hit the button, and the bread started to broil. But our song was coming on, and as everyone knows, it’s a pain in the ass to “rewind” an 8 Track. So we HAD TO DANCE. We were on Day 11. I had just executed the complex transition from leaping to milking when we smelled smoke. We ran into the kitchen to see flames shooting out of the experimental vertical broiler/toaster and licking the cabinets above. I took charge of the situation and continued running through the kitchen, into the dining room, then past the tree in the living room, and out the front door to the opening strains of “Joy to the World.” I did not stop running in my bare feet —and screaming —until I got to the hydrant. Then it was just screaming.
But even that cannot dampen my enthusiasm for that song. The order of the days may be non-standard (our Lords are at #9), but it’s my Christmas song.