Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. ~ Danny Kaye
The same Danny Kaye who danced and charmed all throughout the musical movie, “White Christmas”, with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.
I grew up with that movie as well as with Bing Crosby’s album, “Merry Christmas”.
To me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without them both and the minute I play the album or watch the movie, I am a little girl in the home I grew up in with my mother and two sisters and our sometimes and all too infrequent, (when he was a part), father.
We almost always had a Douglas Fir tree with colored electric lights and it wasn’t complete without icicles. Our mother wasn’t happy until she fashioned a make-believe fireplace with crepe paper printed like bricks that would go around the table that the tree sat on and our three identical lightweight printed stretchy cotton stockings were hung, somehow, from that make-believe fireplace. I don’t recall if there were stockings hanging for our parents, but there was always one for Susie Q, our calico cat. She got a can or two of “Kitty Queen”, liver, in hers and I don’t remember what else — probably some catnip. She loved “Kitty Queen” and we loved to spoil her. She grew up with us and is featured in many of the images of my youth — usually one of us is holding her.
My younger sister and I used to love to lie on the floor, under the tree and look up into round ornaments hanging on the low limbs to see ourselves distorted. We’d laugh our heads off and we just loved the smell and the gorgeous array of colored lights and their flickers on the silver streams and colored balls. If we weren’t lying there, we were sitting right in front of the tree rocking in our little maple rockers.
We chewed holes in corners of presents that were wrapped and put out early trying to guess what was inside. I remember getting a little piece gone from one and upon seeing the box, knowing, without a doubt, what it was and being so disappointed with myself for not waiting. It was something I wanted, a camera I think, and I was so sorry for missing the surprise. I quit chewing holes in presents.
Our mother absolutely loved Christmas. She saved everything we needed for a year to wrap so we would have plenty to excite us as we waltzed through the hall door Christmas morning. She continued the event way past us being children and would always let us each pick out one main big thing that she would somehow find the money for. She had wonderful credit and integrity and everyone trusted her completely.
One year she was arranging to purchase a sewing machine for my older sister and I started begging for one too. It was I that sewed the most, but my sister was of a certain age that my mother was preparing her for having the essentials. She got us both one. Mine was used to death. I don’t know if my older sister ever used hers. I’m sure she did, somewhere along the line. Mine became an extension of my career and I have no idea what I would have become if my dear mother hadn’t recognized the need to charge two that year.
Oh, it would be so wonderful to be able to go home for Christmas again. I suppose people with children relive theirs but I never see one that resembles any that I’ve known. The same spirit just doesn’t seem to be there.
The movie, “White Christmas”, was made the year I was born, 1954 so I probably heard it on a TV as an infant. I know my mother played the album as far back as I can remember.
The Christmas year that I realized that I was really growing up was the one that my younger sister and I dressed up like grown up girls, bras and all, (we had to stuff them), and danced around the living room like we had boyfriends to the “Merry Christmas” album — we were probably 8 and 9. I recall not liking it at all and wanting to get out of those clothes as fast as I could — I wasn’t ready to leave being a child — as much as I may have thought I was.
Sometimes I get a Christmas tree. I wait till the last minute when they are practically being given away. I get one as much to use to let the cutter ants tear it apart as it decays because they really seem to like if for making their fungus-derived food. But while it lasts, I have the smell and dress it up with balls so I can recall the years my sister and I saw ourselves distorted. I don’t use icicles because they are just too messy and they’re made of plastic and don’t decompose.
I always play the “Merry Christmas” album and dance around in memories. It makes me sad sometimes that so much is gone and that there are none left from my life to reminisce with — but I am so glad that those memories were made for hanging onto — paint on canvas.
There is no envy in watching others make new memories with new families. We have what we have. They are doing what my mother did and painting canvases for their children — a modern type of Christmas art it seems.
I prefer the old one. I think it has aged very well. I’m not so sure that modern children will hold on to theirs for long.