With it being the day that it is, I couldn’t think of a single song better to be chosen as the “Very First Song of Christmas” posted here for this year…
With it being the day that it is, I couldn’t think of a single song better to be chosen as the “Very First Song of Christmas” posted here for this year…
So I never even realized that there was such a thing as “The Daily Post” until I stumbled upon it one day not too far back.
They offer a daily prompt on a – well – daily basis, to help writers who may be struggling with a bit of blockage. Here was yesterdays nudge:
Invent a holiday! Explain how and why everyone should celebrate.
It sounded cool. And then I remembered that I had already done just that years ago, and then I even wrote a school paper about it. You can find it in the “stuff i have to write for school” tab, along with a whole bunch of other goodies, or you can simply scroll down and continue to read it from here…
They never performed together while alive, and it has been noted that they weren’t even particularly fond of each other, but fate has ensured that Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra will forever more be linked in our cultural history.
For those who care*, May 14th is celebrated annually as “Bobby/Frank Day” due to the fact that both Bobby Darin’s birthday and the anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s death fall on this date. Celebrations can vary, but certain time-honored traditions seem to span across all walks of life.
Being awoken by the radio alarm that boldly announces the anniversary of both events is a joy experienced in almost every household, and in addition to being a gentle reminder as to the reason behind the holiday; much like the lighting of the advent wreath, it also harkens its “official” beginning. Other traditions and customs, while not being as universal, are also held dear to those who practice them. These can include Sinatra and/or Darin Film Marathons, playing the music of Bobby and Frank exclusively throughout the day or even exchanging discs of either artist with loved ones. Due to the somewhat limited output of each, this tradition has seen a downturn as of late, but record companies are working diligently to increase volume by packaging previously unreleased sides with almost every sound a recording session ever captured, including sound checks, banter, and in the case of Sinatra, fist fights with members of the orchestra.
A more recent phenomenon has been the occurrence of people clogging the internet in an effort to post Darin or Sinatra videos from YouTube onto social networking sites such as facebook, while others perform online searches for the “perfect” quote from either performer to be used as a status update for the day.
Sadly, like many other major holidays, Bobby/Frank Day has also seen a recent push to become more secular in nature. While certain groups try to argue for inclusion of additional artists such as Martin, Bennett, Torme and Davis, Jr.; based solely on these types of performers being “close enough”; others go so far as to open up the holiday in honor of all “musicians”. This second group in particular seems to be involved in a poorly veiled plan to only increase the cash flow associated with this holiday.
While groups and motives such as these can be seen as spoilers to an otherwise beloved and enjoyable holiday, it is felt by most that fate will once again intervene, and work alongside believers to ensure that the true spirit of Bobby/Frank Day will remain in tact, and hopefully, until the end of our cultural history, Bobby and Frank will be swingin’ together.
* Including the author, there are approximately 3 people in the world currently who care.
What? You didn’t think it was going to be a Sinatra track, did you?
“Oh, somewhere deep inside of these bones, an emptiness began to grow.”
~ Jack Skellington
By the time the sun sets on my house tonight, I will be living with one Sand Man, one Mafia Wife, one Princess (pronounced “pin-cess”), one Robot Pirate and a Weeping Angel, of Doctor Who fame. While the older creatures will be off on their merry way with friends, the younger two will be carted from house to house, meaning that I will once again have to dust off my infamous “Grumpy Dad” costume for another year.
Per my youngest, “it’s not really a costume, you know. You just dress like normal.”
“Ah” says I, “But I look mopey the whole time.”
“Yeah,” says he, “like normal.”
Why am I telling you all this? Well, first off, because I don’t really care for Halloween. Sorry to all my Gothic friends, but ghouls and vampires really don’t do much for me. Walking outdoors in the frigid cold doesn’t either. Especially when you’re doing so, simply to obtain candy that you could have easily just have purchased from a store without all the fanfare and hoopty-doo.
Secondly I’m telling you because, while I’m not a fan myself, the ones I love are. As such, I diligently keep my Grumpy Dad costume in good order, just so I can share in the joy with them. It’s during these frigid cold walks that our conversations turn to talk of Thanksgiving, and – that Big Daddy holiday of them all – Christmas. In short, it’s the harkening bells of Halloween that makes us realize the onset of, and brings us together for, the holiday season.
I don’t want to be like Jack. I don’t want to become “empty” to the joy of seeing others happy. The years swim by too swiftly, and I know that it won’t be too long before I’ll be exchanging my Grumpy Dad costume for a Grumpy Grandpa model (I think it’s basically the same, but the Grandpa version comes with a cardigan.) As such, I’m going to keep my eyes peeled, and my mind attentive to the rush of joy that surrounds me tonight.
I hope you all enjoy your Halloween as well. I hope you all are able to soak in every minute of it. I hope that you can enjoy this time, because this time will be over almost before it’s begun. Why, it moves so quickly in fact, that my Weeping Angel son may even be tempted to point a quantum-locked finger at you while admonishing, “Don’t blink!”
Well, OK. As a Whovian, he pretty much says that on a daily basis anyway.
“I’ve never felt so good before. This empty place inside of me is filling up. I simply cannot get enough”
~ Jack Skellington
To look at my dad, you might think he was much more of a “We Three Kings Of Orient Are” kind of guy, when in fact “The Little Drummer Boy” is actually his wassail of choice. This is so much the case, that i find myself asking him almost annually to clarify which of the two it is that is actually his favorite. i seem to recall being told while growing up that his reasoning behind picking the latter over the former was due to the drumming involved. But as anyone who’s heard the song knows, there’s damned little use of actual drums throughout the arrangement, especially when in consideration of its subject matter. Now as dad is nearing his end, he’s becoming much more expressive, and is sharing a lot more of whom he really is with me. That, or i’m just finally paying attention. Either way, i can now see that what i’ve long suspected to be true really is. Dad is a bigger fan of the drummer boy, at least in part, because he feels much more kinship with that one unsure boy than he does with any and all of the three wise men.
The difference between the two is pretty stark. Whereas the kings are driven with purpose and sure in their knowledge, the little drummer boy is a straggler, who simply happens upon his miracle in lieu of actively searching it out. The kings come ready, bearing gifts that admittedly – if delivered to a child of this day in age, would most likely be exchanged before the day’s end – but are still respectful enough. The drummer boy however, comes with even less, having only a song in his heart. A little ditty that he doesn’t even recognize as having any kind of worth. And therein lies the shame, and the message, of the song. The drummer boy is valued not because the song he plays is wonderful, practiced or Billboard chart-worthy, but rather because it is of himself. Simply and solely unique to him, and possible only through him. Given freely and with more than a bit of embarrassment, of all the “gifts” given, his is the one that the babe smiles upon. His is the one that the Christ child cherishes more than even he himself does.
Like so many of us struggling through life – or more to the point, accepting ourselves during this struggle of life – the little drummer boy seeing no apparent worth to his song is an extension of how he feels about his self. And i think my dad feels that very acutely in his own life at times as well. Much more so than he’s ever previously let on to at least, both to those around him, and to himself. Knowing my own self (but not trying to project “me” onto him), i feel that dad may also have spent a good deal of his life feeling unworthy. Feeling “wrong”. Feeling like his song was without value. Seeing him as i do now, i get the feeling that dad too has struggled with the idea that Christ could love him for no apparent reason. Even though he does. And he does, not because dad played for him a Top Of The Pops hit, but simply because dad “played his best for him.” Because for Jesus, your best is exactly good enough. For many of the rest of us though – dad and myself included – it’s not even close enough to obtain a passing grade. Seeing as Jesus sits at the right hand, i suppose his opinion trumps ours, but you try and tell my dad that. My dad, who might have acted as if he were a king, but only ever felt himself to be a drummer boy. My dad, who may not realize that the kings were majestic, yet humbled by the babe. The drummer boy however, a person of seemingly little importance, was made great by this same child. All with one little smile of acceptance. The drummer boy left the scene redeemed. My dad needs to follow suit. i hope he does. He deserves to.
i’m proud of my drummer boy dad, and i fear that these days, there are far too few drummer boys left. Or put another way ’round, i fear there are far too many who would consider themselves “kings” hanging about. The problem being that these new royals are not necessarily of the wise, or even moderately shrewd, variety. While they may have crowns upon their heads, these were purchased instead of earned, bought instead of granted. Many of the crowns worn today only go to show that you can trample on the needs of the many in order to meet with your own personal desires, and simply covering yourself in gold doesn’t make you more valuable. Spewing forth catch-phrases eschewing positive thoughts doesn’t make you an actual force for change either. And beating others over the head with how “awesome” you are doesn’t necessarily make it so. If you want to be more valuable, give instead of taking, even when no one’s looking. Especially when no one’s looking. Should you desire to be a force for change, then change your own life instead of others, conducting yourself in an ethical fashion. Even the times when it doesn’t work to your advantage to do so. If you want to be awesome, start doing awesome things within your scope of talent for those who could use your help, and place others first. Not just your “others”, but others “others” as well. Do the little drummer boys of this world need to suck it up and learn some self-love? By all means. But the new “kings” would also do well to turn it down a notch, and start spreading love around instead. Not just in word, but deed as well.
It’s the final week before Christmas, and this is my third-to last post about the holiday season. Well, for this year at any rate. i apologize for my brief soap-boxian moment just now, but it is only because my hope – albeit wholly naive to the point of being absolutely moronic to even voice in public – is that all the wise men, the kings and the drummer boys of this world can use this week ahead to ready ourselves. Not so much for the birth of the newborn king – as that will come whether we’re ready or not, and regardless of our acceptance of it – but rather, to actually put into action all the peace, love and goodwill spoken of so freely during this time of year as a result of his coming. We don’t need to be perfect at it, we just need to agree to it, to keep at it daily and to do our best always. And in turn, our best will be exactly good enough.
Heck, stranger things have happened…
He laid in a crib made from scrap plywood, 1X2’s and a smattering of nails. The crib is long gone, but i’m pretty sure that the beige (yes, beige) paint that was used to cover any imperfections lives on somewhere. It was simply far too ugly a color as to not have some sort of half-life associated with it. In fact, thinking back, this crib was one of the rare items my dad created without the aid of shellac. Possibly because it was before he had yet discovered the stuff, but i tend to think it was really just all in a effort to enforce our memories of the crib – and the tradition associated with it – all the more.
Baby Jesus wasn’t in the crib when it first took it’s honored position in the corner of the kitchen, atop a T.V. tray that was made of fake dark wood top and completed by fake golden trim and leg. The kind of legs designed to snap easily into little plastic junctures located beneath the surface, that simply screamed anytime you placed anything greater than a pound or two upon the tray’s top. Beside the crib was a bag of hay, freshly purchased but never blessed. i have never once taken the time to ask my folks where, exactly, they found a source for little plastic bags of hay, but trust me, that’s all it was. And usually the bag was just big enough as to fill the crib to overflowing should all of it’s contents be dumped within. But all of it’s contents never were. No, as noted last time, how much of the stuff went into the crib was dependent upon us. Well, our good (or bad) deeds at any rate. Fortunately for both us and the babe, our activity was only monitored in this fashion from the time Advent began until Christmas morn. For every good deed, a handful of hay went into the crib, and for every bad deed, a handful came out.
i seem to recall hazily at one point that we were able to convince dad that he created an offense so great as to warrant his removing a handful of hay, but other than this one partially-remembered instance, the task of filling or emptying the crib lay solely on us three children. The parents apparently thinking they were above judgement and/or contribution. As to what my dad’s offense was, i can’t remember. But both the fact that we had mom on our side AND he actually conceded in pulling his fair share from the trough ensured that whatever it was, it must have been a doozie, even more grievous than our child-like minds understood it to be. Dad was never one to admit wrong-doing or error of any sort, and i have a inkling that once he does get up to heaven, he’ll spend a good amount of time telling God just exactly how He should have done it all.
Regardless, from the day the crib was laid down upon the table to the morn of Christ’s birth, we worked feverishly to perform some sort of good deed on an almost daily basis. The bad deeds seem to come a lot easier, and sadly, it took the three of us much too long to recognize the fact that tattling on each other when these deeds occurred served absolutely no one’s best interest. Bad deeds by the way, also included (but never were counted) items such as making up tales of fictional good deeds as well as randomly sneaking partial handfuls into the crib, both done to bolster the hay count before the blessed day of birth. Never was a full handful attempted on the sly, for surely mom would know. And she would have. All said, i’m none too sure if the crib-stuffing practice helped us to be good boys, or simply aided us in our training of the art of deceit. Possibly a bit of both. None of it mattered however, as long as the crib was at the level of “comfy” for Baby Jesus to snuggle down in by Christmas day (i seem to remember that one year it was not, but the memories of that event are far too sketchy as to recall them here).
Then, bright and early on Christmas morning (and in my house, it was much more early than bright, in that the sun hardly ever rose to meet with us at four AM when we were jumping from our sacks), we would get up and huddle close together under the tree in nervous anticipation of mom and dad also getting out of bed. Once they did, we would move the TV tray to the living room beside the tree. After placing Jesus – resplendent in a blue wrap and bow long since lost – into his crib and lighting the candle that was jammed happily into his birthday cupcake, we would rush through a half-hearted version of “Happy Birthday”. The faster we three sang, all the slower our parents did in response. It took several years to figure all this out and determine that the quickest way to get it over with was to simply sing it correctly first time around. We sang in haste, because it was only after we completed the song, blew out the candle and… well, i have no earthly idea or recollection as to what we did with the cupcake. Who the flip cared? The song was over! And while the cupcake was apparently having something done to it seeing as we never saw it again, the three of us were ravaging through the brightly packaged boxes under the tree, all in the hopes that the store Santa we saw was the real deal. Or at least had taken careful mental note of our desires (seeing as he was never with pen or paper), reporting them back correctly to the big man.
We followed this tradition each and every year for i don’t know how many years. Each and every year except one. As is the case so often, i firmly place all the blame on what we have dubbed “That One Time” (as in, “do you remember that one time…”) upon my older brother. He had to be the one who told us that morning, as we sat glassy-eyed under the tree in wonderment, that he had checked with mom and she had said it was OK to unwrap the gifts before we sang. If it wasn’t him who said it, it would have been my little brother. And that couldn’t have been the case, because we never listened to him anyway. By the time mom and dad became aware of our transgressions, almost every box was unwrapped, every Christmas dream revealed, and while i don’t remember specifics, i do recall that it was a year with a particularly good haul. Mom was devastated that we had done such a thing, and dad – who had yet had the heart attack that would mellow him – went utterly and simply. Ape. Shit. Do you know how in cartoons, a character is occasionally shown with their head expanding to the point of explosion? i could swear that on that morn, my dad’s head actually did exactly that. Fortunately a new one grew back relatively quickly, but unfortunately as soon as it had, he made us re-wrap all the presents and place them under the tree again. OK, that last part might be a bit of an exaggeration – i can’t recall if we actually had to rewrap the gifts (but it sure felt as if we did), but we did have to re-tree each and every one and march off promptly back to bed, empty-handed.
We all three laid there, wondering if we were ever going to celebrate Christmas again. The pain was made all the worse by the fact that we already knew what awaited us, present-wise. After what felt like 80 years or so, my folks finally told us we could get up, and when we sheepishly returned to the living room, we saw Baby Jesus there by the tree, the cupcake in place and the candle lit. We were actually being allowed a “do-over” from my dad! Christmas miracles abounded! The thrill we felt at being saved further punishment far outweighed even the desire to get back to the presents, and i’m pretty sure that year was the very prettiest we ever did sing “Happy Birthday” to Baby Jesus.
To this day, mom always puts in my kids cards “remember to sing to Baby Jesus”, but we never do. i may be a bad parent, but i just don’t want my children to be bullied into their faith. It took me too many years to actually come back around and actively “choose” mine. Now, while we don’t sing as a family, i will let you in a little secret – i don’t sing it alone either. But every year, i do catch myself at one point or another very quietly closing my eyes for a brief moment and saying “Happy birthday Jesus.”