I like holiday music, but it hasn’t always been that way.
I grew up attending a parochial school, a very strict, oppressive and frightening parochial school. I believe this is where I developed my bad association with holiday music. Being a pursuer of truth and freedom, I frequently found myself being escorted by the guards…err…umm, I mean teachers, to the Principles Office to await judgment. It was there that I would sit and sweat, wondering what kind of dark ages torture device was being set-up to deal with me, all the while upbeat holiday music played over the schools loud speaker like I was in a Stanley Kubrick film. A Pavlov’s Response was set. People thought I just hated Perry Como, but it ran much deeper that that.
I was able to keep this problem to myself until 1997. I had my first really serious girlfriend and we were driving to her parents’ house for Christmas. I wasn’t worried, I was much more mature now, that was all in my past…I thought. That night as we finished the family feast her parents adjourned us to the living room for some family tradition: the singing of Christmas Carols! As they began singing I felt that mouthy little demon, coming back to life. All the rebellion, the snottiness, every ugly response that got me in trouble as a kid was resurfacing.
My girlfriend’s mom noticed that I was quiet and looking a little pale and decided to help me feel at ease with a friendly comment: “You’re not singing, Richard,” she sang out. “Neither are you!” I barked back. And before I could stop myself I finished the night off with, “I think they call that bellowing!” and that was it. Nice girl, nice parents, nice night all ruined by my strange affliction. I never underestimated holiday songs again.
Around 4 years ago I found myself as a project manager of an arena development in rural New Mexico, and I mean rural. We loaded up a weeks worth of supplies and headed out to a ranch in the southeast corner of the state. We were short workers so each of us had to double as equipment operators; I ended up on the bulldozer. The next morning I noticed I had a ringing in my ears from spending all day on this thunderous machine. I grabbed some ear phones and wore them for the first few minutes, but the sound of the dozer was still there. I noticed that my ear phones had a radio switch and flipped it on to drown out the noise. I scanned the entire dial, but found only one clear station and guess what it was? That’s right, a 24 hour holiday music station that exist for only one month a year, lucky me.
I knew I needed that music on or possible ruin my hearing. Of course, I was also worried about how well I could perform my job with all that’s rotten in me begging to get out. I put them on. I turned on the music. I started operating my machine. At first it was Bing Crosby and my dozer kept pulling towards the parking lot where I could have some fun, but I fought it off. Then it was Dolly Parton and an urge to spell my name in the dirt so the airplanes could read it, but it passed. Then something wonderful happened: The sun came out, it was a beautiful day, I was enjoying my work, and better yet, I was starting to enjoy holiday music! Nat King Cole, Barry Manilow, it’s as if I was being reprogrammed. They played Elvis Presley’s, “Blue Christmas,” every fifteen minutes and I actually found myself singing along and even wearing the slanted, lazy lip look that the King made famous. It was a new day!
I’ve made lots of progress over the years. I have tried to make amends to the people I’ve wronged while under the spell, some wounds were just too deep, sadly. Today, I am engaged to a wonderful girl and can’t wait to start our life together. I head down to meet her parents for the first time this weekend, their Southern Baptist. I’m going to hold onto my apartment for now… just in case.