My Merry Little Christmas, Circa 1964

On the living room couch I fell asleep Christmas night listening to my new Barbra Streisand albumthe stereo volume just loud enough for me to hear with the speakers right by my head. My brother and his wife slept in my room, my parents in theirs, my two younger sisters in theirs, and my older sister and our Aunt Lacy in the room they shared whenever Lacy was with us. All felt right with the world, magical, as it can when you’re young.

I remember that the Streisand album, her third, was advertised that Christmas with the words “give him what he wants,” or words to that effect. The “him” in the ad was a young, sweater-clad man. He surely appealed to me. Even though I didn’t yet understand myself, I understood that something wasn’t quite right about that ad. The typical he didn’t want a Barbra Streisand album; he wanted a subscription to Playboy.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
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
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

(Music by Ralph Blane, lyrics by Hugh Martin.)

Published in 1943, the song draws from the war the  tentative note that makes it so compelling. At my present age, knowing the end of the story for my parents, our Aunt Lacy, my sister Joy, my brother’s first wife, and knowing that one of my sisters has suffered from schizophrenia since her late twenties, the line through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow rings as sadly prophetic in my ears as it must have for so many in war-ravaged 1943.

At that magical long ago Christmas in the 1960s, I remember my mother saying Barbra Streisand sang Just in Time too slowly. Mother demonstrated by singing it faster for me, by singing it the way it was written to be sung, she said. She even danced a little while she sang it. A memory to treasure, an ornament stored away in a mental box labelled “Christmas.”

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