Friday, December 18, 2015

Twinkly Lights, Silent Night & Peace on Earth

Amber Leigh Williams

‘Tis the season. While I love this time of year, usually the sound of round-the-clock Christmas songs makes me scratch. However, for 2015, due to an overload of Disney Junior tunes that have been lodged in my inner ear on repeat shuffle for months, cheery carols and gospel medleys have been a welcome treat thus far. Perhaps due to this new open-minded approach to Christmas music, here's a few thoughts on the subject....

#1 – The holiday season does not begin until I hear Elvis Prestley’s “O’ Come, All Ye Faithful.” I don’t care how soon the local supermarket begins marketing stocking stuffers or how soon the neighbors string their homes/lawns with enough Christmas lights to rival Disney’s Epcot Center. If it’s December 24th and I’ve yet to hear The King, no big, jolly guy in a red suit can convince me Christmas is tomorrow night.

#2 – For most of my life, “The Christmas Song” (or “Chestnuts”), has held the top spot on my list of holiday favorites. Around Christmastime, my mother’s family would gather at my grandmother’s house. Before bedtime, we would sprawl around the piano in the great-room, huddle close with popcorn (for the kids) and cocktails (for the adults) while my grandmother played Christmas songs. Toward the end (after a few tonics), my great-grandmother—despite having lost her sight years ago—would give my grandmother’s fingers a rest by taking her place on the bench and playing by memory songs she once played on a Mississippi River steamboat. “Chestnuts” was always first on the set list and it never fails to remind me of those nights we stayed up late to hear Memaw and GG play.

#3 - The movie Home Alone was released the same year my sister was born—twenty-five years down the road, Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” still brings to mind Kevin McCallister’s wide, troublemaking grin and instantly makes me want to strap on some elf shoes and boogie down.

#4 - “Let It Snow” is one of those songs that has been sung by every artist at every tempo imaginable. We’ve heard it all before and then some. While on the way to my mother’s house the other night, the hub and I cranked Harry Connick, Jr.’s version for the kiddies. I love the big band feel. And, can I just say, as a child I never realized how sexy the lyrics are. That’s Harry for you. Bring on the mistletoe!

#5 – I spent four years in my public school’s girls’ choral group. We crooned “Silent Night” during the holidays enough times to make me gag. The song now gives me warm fuzzies. In 1914, during the Christmas truce of World War I, it was sung simultaneously by German and English troops on both sides of the trenches. For me personally, maybe it's that touching image of mother and child. Those lyrics, too, the phrase “sleep in heavenly peace.” Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. For a long time, I struggled with panic attacks on a daily basis. It’s easy to take for granted those moments that we feel completely at peace with life, with the world. My greatest wish during this period was simply to feel those little moments of peace again, those perfect intersections between heaven and earth.

I’m happy to report that I did slowly calm the storm inside my head. It didn’t come easily, and the idea of reawakening my daily anxiety and losing these hard-won, peaceful interludes haunts me every day. But if those months and months of panic taught me anything, it was to stop, breathe, and let these small snatches of serenity soak in.
Fairhope, Alabama, March 2011
This was one of those moments. It was pre-kiddies, riding on the coattails of panic. (It’s evident in my weight here.) I’m sitting on the dock of the bay where my Superromance series is based in Fairhope, Alabama. The day was dying, the light starting to slant across the water in golden pinpricks. I remember the glow of it on my face as I watched the sun draw closer and closer to the edge. It was the first moment since the panic started that I thought I would be okay again. (I’m on the phone reporting the happy news to the hub.)

Ferris Wheel, May 2015
Four years and two babies later,another peaceful moment. It was three weeks after the birth of our daughter. It was also our wedding anniversary. My mother offered to babysit the kiddies. For an hour, we sat al fresco at our local Italian restaurant, the wind off the water offsetting the tepid summer air, sipping wine, sampling smoked oysters and enjoying each other’s company. By the end of the date, we were both feeling a little tipsy so we decided to walk it off. We wound up at the foot of a ferris wheel. We realized that in eleven years we had never shared a ferris wheel ride together. Maybe it was the drinks, but minutes later we found ourselves sitting over a hundred feet off the ground enjoying the twinkly lights of nighttime scenery along the coastline.

A sweet smooch on the Christmas Tree Farm, December 2015 

I’ve been blessed with many a peaceful moment over the last few years. Seeing my children in repose as they fall asleep in my arms. Nighttime boat rides on the lake in the summer. Standing on the beach watching the tide roll in. Enjoying a conversation with my preschooler who communicated through non-verbal means alone just nine months ago. Watching the light of the Christmas tree bathe both kiddies’ faces.

In many ways, it’s been a turbulent year worldwide. My greatest wish for you, readers, wherever you are this holiday season is plenty of peace and serenity for you and your loved ones! Peace on Earth and let's be jolly. Deck the halls and...if it's cold outside, it's probably a white Christmas so grab a blanket and some hot cocoa, stay inside and sing carols.
Happy holidays!

Just for fun—what’s your favorite holiday tune?


Mary Preston said...

I like the traditional carols best - Oh, Holy Night is my favorite.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

The young chorus version of O Holy Night gives me chills every time I hear it.

Colleen C. said...

I love Good King Wenceslas... Happy Holidays!

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Great traditional Christmas song, Colleen! Reminds of church bells and organs :-)

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