Getting into the spirit

Some years I plan for Christmas way in advance, and some years I feel like December just totally creeped up on my without warning.

This year was a creeper.

Even after getting my shopping done (wahoo!) and getting the tree up and decorated, I was having trouble getting into the spirit of things. There is quite a bit of chaos in the Wettschreck household these days, and it has been a strange year in general.

Last night I worked late doing the night duty thing. On the way home, I pulled out my “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together” CD. It didn’t take long for me to start smiling and singing along. It’s an album my family had when I was young, and was always a favorite at Christmas time.

From a rollicking version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” and a salsa version of “Christmas is Coming” to a beautiful retelling of how the song “Silent Night” came to be, the whole album is wonderful.

One song that always makes me stop and think is one called “It’s in Every One of Us.” It starts out with Denver telling a story about a Christmas tree named Alfie, who asks Denver to ask the listeners to say a prayer for the wind and the water and the woods, and those who live there, too.

It’s in every one of us to be wise, find your heart and open up both your eyes
We can all know everything without ever knowing why
It’s in every one of us, by and by

I also have a version of it on a Dennis DeYoung CD called “10 on Broadway” which has all the words. The muppets only sing the chorus. I don’t know what Broadway musical it is from. Does anyone out there know? It’s the only song on the CD I’ve never been able to attach to a show.

Another Christmas song that is one of my favorites is on the original Barbra Streisand Christmas album, which came out in 1967 (same as me!).

There is a song called “The Best Gift,” and it seemed no matter what my Mom was doing around the house, she would always pause to listen to that song. I didn’t really get it when I was young, but I sure do now.

The lyrics are a bit mysterious at first, but if you listen carefully, it doesn’t take long to figure out:

The best gift that I ever got didn’t really weigh a lot,
It didn’t have a ribbon ’round and it sometimes made a terrible sound
The best of all, it seems to me, wasn’t ‘neath the christmas tree
And yet, I guess I’d have to say that it made all the other presents twice as gay.

Got it figured out yet? This will help:

The best gift that I’ll ever get was sometimes dry and sometimes wet
Was usually pink but oftentimes red as it lay so innocently in its bed
The best gift of the year to me, the one I hold most dear to me
A gift that simply drove me wild was a tiny newborn child…

My mom had her first child two days before Christmas, so this song gets her a bit teary-eyed. It wasn’t until my own son was born in early December that I understood the look on Mom’s face.

Nick had to be brought back to the hospital a week after he was born for surgery on the valve going into his stomach. We generally refer to it as his “warranty work.” They let me stand next to his crib and hold his hand, even after he was anesthetized, until the surgeon was ready. He was the one who came to get my baby, and he looked at me, smiled, then announced, “Uh oh, Mom’s gonna cry.” He was right.

I had a really hard time letting go of that tiny hand. It’s always hard to let go, isn’t it?

After a successful surgery, we made sure someone was always at the hospital with him, and since we lived in Florida at the time (Eric was in the Navy), there weren’t a lot of options. I wanted my baby safe at home, there was a 5-year-old girl at home who was bewildered by all the strangeness, and I was still recovering from childbirth. Wettschreck chaos, as usual.

We got to check Nick out of the hospital just a few days before Christmas, Making the song “The Best Gift” even more poignant.

Two years later our youngest child, Matt, was born on Dec. 8. He was polite enough to wait until a week or so after Christmas before needing warranty work – the same thing Nick had.

Anyway, I guess the point to this whole thing is that if you’re having trouble getting into the spirit of things – if the chaos, the hustle and bustle, the running and fetching and spending and general craziness of the holiday is interfering with the reason for the season, take a moment to listen to some favorite carols. And be sure to sing along at the top of your lungs, no matter what your singing ability happens to be.