I have a new game: Pick a holiday song... any holiday song, and I am immediately brought back to a random point in my past.
"Baby it's Cold Outside".... It's evening 2002 and I am busy restocking the knobs at Restoration Hardware where I have a holiday job. My co-workers are sick of hearing the song, but I love it and sing along. The shoppers are jolly.... casually shopping while they wait the required hour for their table at the Cheesecake Factory (the same one described in my second novel, Untying the Knot)
"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"... The year is anytime between 1971 and 1975. My two sisters, brother and I are standing up in front of a room packed with Lane Bryant employees enjoying their Holiday party (back when companies still celebrated... included the families of employees... and even called it a Christmas party). We have on our matching Christmas outfits and little white gloves (my sisters, obviously; not my brother). After we sing and have our breakfast we get to go to the top of Macy's San Francisco and see Santa. It is the basis for every nostalgic Christmas moment I have.
"Can They Tell It's Christmastime At All"... It's 1984 and I am on a campaign; I WILL earn enough money to live at college rather than commute from my family's home. I have four part-time jobs over the holidays.... retail at Nordstrom and a small local shop, teller at a bank, and baby-sitter extraordinaire. It's probably that I am exhausted, but every time this song comes on I cry. Rather embarrassing while waiting on customers.
"The Best Gift I Ever Got"... By Barbara Streisand. My sister and I are carrying trays, serving hors d'oeuvres to my parents' friends at our annual Christmas open house. Our tree, a 10 footer at least this year, is leaning precariously after requiring ties to keep it upright to begin with. It is flocked (shudder) and decorated precisely with silver and pink glass ornaments, white lights and big bows. My faux silk shirt layered under a velvet vest is making me sweat unattractively. I'm desparate to escape to my room and gorge on fudge.
"The Best Gift I Ever Got".... Same song but now it is 2010. I am standing in my own kitchen making my traditional bubke bread (btw - best version is at Cheryl Anne's in Brookline, MA). In my mind my daughter is helping or reading.... but in all likelihood she is probably watching a Christmas special on TV. The song starts playing on my iPod and I hum along, familiar with the tune if not the specific words. I stop..... the words sink in and I begin to cry as I look at the most perfect gift I ever got and think... Christmas without the songs would be like the entire season without my daughter.... a pale version of the real thing.