Middlebury, Vt.

Life in the middle of Vermont.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Winging It at Christmas

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Does Christmas ever go that way these days, I wonder -- as it does in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and all the old holiday standards?

Our world is so fractionated, our faithful friends so far away. If those golden days of yore ever did exist, it often seems they won’t come again.

I remember hearing that song as a teenager, as we decorated the huge tree we had gathered from a friend’s farm. I knew then that I would always recall, in the way you know you’ll never forget your first kiss, how our faithful friends had gathered near to us once more.

My family shared every Christmas with the family of Roz and Norman Avnet, my parents’ closest friends. As we Dennis and Avnet kids grew from rugrats to college students, we always knew that year’s end would bring another visit from the Avnets, another tree, and more olden days made new.

So it is that every Christmas, I pull out the old Frank Sinatra album with that song on it, to hear Frankie sing of those happy golden days.

These days, there’s a 12-year-old girl in my life. We’re on the same page about the brilliance of the Beatles, but it must be said that she doubts the power of this particular Christmas song to transform the darkest days of the year.

Last weekend on the drive out to cut a Christmas tree in the national forest above Ripton, I put Sinatra’s Christmas album on the car’s CD player.

It took less than 60 seconds for the 12-year-old’s voice to drift up from the back seat.

“Whoa,” she said. “This is a really corny album.”

Indeed it is. If you’re gonna go retro, I figure, go with the best.

But there are moments when the nostalgia of familiar carols seems just a sad echo of what we’ve lost.

Maybe there are people out there who know what every Christmas will be like – what they’ll bake, just who will visit when, what they’ll eat for Christmas dinner.
But that’s not how my holidays go these days, and I know I’m not alone. So many of us have too many options, too many uncertainties in our lives, to know ahead of time how the details of the holidays will unfold.

Maybe we could pretty much predict things when most of the kids were young and at home. But now they’re in college or unleashed upon the world as young adults. There’s no telling how it will all come together.

Last Christmas I relived some of those holidays of yore by visiting Judy Avnet, my oldest friend, and her family. But this year, Judy’s older son, Cory, leaves on Christmas Day for a month in South Africa. His brother, Greg, will be at home, but the holiday will be marked earlier than usual, exact day still to be determined. We’re invited but the dates remain unclear.

Another option, to visit my brother and his wife and kids near Boston, is similarly in flux as we try to coordinate eight individuals’ schedules.

The five of them will come in to their Boston-area home from all corners – there to join the two dogs who are the home’s only everyday residents: My brother from Palo Alto where he oversees his law firms’ invasion of Silicon Valley; his wife from a bicoastal existence that finds her in Boston one week, Palo Alto the next.

Their son Luke will arrive from Portland, Oregon, where he’s a professional musician. Older daughter Charlotte will bomb in from the University of Colorado, where she’s majoring in skiing and extroversion. Younger daughter Clara is departing from Sarah Lawrence, halfway through her sophomore year, to study and grow vegetables in Maine.


Americans used to navigate their way through Christmas as if performing a script. Now we wing it.

But I wouldn’t trade those old memories of scripted Christmases for all the PlayStations in China.

The Avnets’ station wagon would pull into our driveway after their long trip up from New York. We piled right back in to go cut the tree before it got dark.
As we brought the 12-foot pine in through the front door, my mother would say every year, “It’s too big! Take it back!”

On Christmas morning, we five kids would explode into the family room to open our presents -- only to be told we had to wait “until everyone gets up.” (Translation: Our parents had stayed up late and were now regretting that post-midnight eggnog.)

After a frenzy of opening presents, we’d adjourn to the dining room to inhale our traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and venison.


But it’s tough to re-create those days. And there’s something to be said for winging it. You never know when something will turn into its own new tradition.

Perhaps this year, we’ll just stay put right here in Vermont. Haul out the Christmas ornaments, each with a happy little story attached to it, and hope the rain turns to snow. We’ll ask a few friends in for dinner and rent “White Christmas” (set in the fictional Pine Tree, Vt.) while wishing that Irving Berlin had written at least one more verse to the song.

We’ll play all the corny old carols, and hope even the 12-year-olds learn to appreciate them.

And I’ll contemplate the advice of a growing-older friend, whom I ran into at the co-op the other day.

My friend lost her husband this year and she’s still adjusting. She’s doing it slowly, by choice.

“What should I say in the column about Christmas?” I asked her.

“Everybody tries to do too much over the holidays,” she replied. We’re always thinking we have to rush into decisions about what to do next in life. We should all just use this time to slow down, she said. Let the future arrive in its own time.
I thought back to those boyhood Christmases -- when for a few days, maybe even a week, time just seemed to stop.

I decided right then to go as slowly as I could this Christmas, to just let it happen as it will.

Driving home from the co-op, I sang aloud the sweet old song.

"Through the years we all be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star
Upon the highest bough
And have yourself
A merry little Christmas now."

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:53 AM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

ninest123 16.01
true religion jeans, air max pas cher, longchamp, timberland, nike air max, converse pas cher, nike blazer, michael kors uk, vans pas cher, north face, sac guess, sac burberry, nike air force, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren, hollister, north face, true religion outlet, coach outlet store online, michael kors outlet, louboutin, lululemon outlet online, ralph lauren, abercrombie and fitch, true religion outlet, michael kors, true religion jeans, nike huaraches, air max, nike free, longchamp, oakley pas cher, michael kors pas cher, hollister, new balance pas cher, sac hermes, air jordan, nike roshe run pas cher, mulberry, hogan outlet, ray ban pas cher, replica handbags, nike tn, nike roshe, vanessa bruno, nike free pas cher, nike trainers, air max, sac longchamp pas cher, coach purses, polo lacoste

12:41 AM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

tory burch outlet, jordan shoes, oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, chanel handbags, longchamp outlet, uggs outlet, ugg boots clearance, burberry outlet, tiffany and co, nike shoes, michael kors outlet online sale, louis vuitton, cheap uggs, prada outlet, oakley sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet, louis vuitton handbags, michael kors outlet, replica watches, ray ban sunglasses, nike free, ugg outlet, louboutin outlet, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, oakley sunglasses cheap, cheap oakley sunglasses, air max, tiffany and co, louis vuitton outlet, ray ban sunglasses, louboutin shoes, longchamp handbags, burberry outlet, longchamp handbags, prada handbags, louis vuitton outlet stores, air max, uggs, michael kors outlet, polo ralph lauren, michael kors outlet, louboutin, rolex watches, gucci outlet, christian louboutin

12:43 AM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

soccer shoes, bottega veneta, instyler, iphone 6s plus cases, converse, nfl jerseys, soccer jerseys, iphone 6s cases, mcm handbags, p90x, jimmy choo outlet, baseball bats, ghd, north face jackets, iphone 6 plus cases, iphone 6 cases, ipad cases, hollister clothing store, air max, babyliss pro, chi flat iron, iphone cases, beats by dre, valentino shoes, timberland boots, mac cosmetics, vans shoes, celine handbags, insanity workout, asics running shoes, ferragamo shoes, wedding dresses, north face outlet, abercrombie and fitch, oakley, ralph lauren, air max, mont blanc, lululemon outlet, reebok outlet, abercrombie, s6 case, gucci, herve leger, ray ban, birkin bag, new balance shoes, iphone 5s cases, vans, nike roshe run, louboutin, giuseppe zanotti

12:46 AM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

hollister, ugg, canada goose, moncler, pandora jewelry, rolex watches, montre homme, moncler, sac lancel, thomas sabo, moncler, swarovski crystal, sac louis vuitton, ugg, louis vuitton, links of london, barbour, moncler, juicy couture outlet, moncler outlet, canada goose, ugg pas cher, converse shoes, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, doke gabbana, swarovski, coach outlet store online, pandora charms, canada goose, moncler, canada goose, juicy couture, pandora charms, supra shoes, moncler, canada goose uk, canada goose, ugg, marc jacobs, moncler, ugg boots, canada goose outlet, sac louis vuitton, canada goose jackets, barbour, wedding dresses, karen millen, toms shoes, louis vuitton uk
ninest123 16.01

12:48 AM  
Blogger dong dong23 said...

nike air max
the north face
ugg boots
north face
kate spade outlet
beats by dre
coach outlet
uggs outlet
ugg outlet

7:25 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home