Have you ever wanted to cry from a Christmas song? I don’t mean in the my-ears-are-bleeding-and-I-can’t-believe-someone-committed-this-refuse-to-a-recording-for-sadistic-posterity sense, but in the unexplainable sense. The way it feels when something just triggers your tear reflex, and you weep for no apparent reason that you or anyone else can discern.
When I was a child, “Christmas Time Is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas made me cry.
Now, I looked forward to this holiday special every year and never missed it, but inevitably the scene of the children all skating on the pond, of Snoopy flying across the ice like joyfulness personified, struck a chord in me I didn’t like to acknowledge. I didn’t have the conscious vocabulary then to express Charlie Brown’s angst myself, but I definitely felt a malaise come December 27th, after the holiday was finished and my cousins and I had separated from our inevitable holiday sleepover and there was nothing to look forward to but going back to awful school. (I think that’s why I celebrate New Year’s Eve so persistently now.) My father explained to me, when I was a child, that I had the “Christmas blues” and was sad that the holidays were over, and while this made sense to me logically, it didn’t really scratch the itch of not understanding my sadness.
And this song made me cry, inexplicably, every time I heard it, even into my early adulthood. It doesn’t anymore, and in fact I rather like it. I’m not sure, honestly, I ever didn’t like it. Such a conundrum.
So this morning my kids gave their holidays concerts at school. They sang with everyone else in their grades a delightful collection of holiday songs highlighting Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter weather, and world peace. My son’s concert was fun and sweet, several dozen first graders bravely soldiering through some very cute melodies. Then the third grade arrived, with my daughter front and center. The opening notes of the first song wafted out of the piano, and boom — they opened with this song. It was beautiful, clear, charming, and even better than Vince Guaraldi’s chorus of cherubs. I very nearly started crying again, and this time I think I understood.
It’s not just about angst. It’s not just about the emotional confusion of being a child and not understanding everything you want to know about yourself yet, or having the language to know how to ask someone else to explain it to you. It’s not just about being younger than most when you come to the epiphany that life has a dark side, too.
It’s also about beauty and love and the preciousness of a singular moment when things fall into place the way they’re supposed to, and recognizing that sometimes that gift can happen to you, too.
So now we’re out of school. I still have a few finals left to grade today and tonight, and then I’ll be done with this semester. Yay.