Wednesday, December 19
7 or 8pm. I am home from the job. I have made a sandwich, boiled a thermos full of water, and plugged in all the Christmas lights. My favorite of these are the ones on the opposite wall, a set that could (as far as I can tell) be anywhere from 25 to 50 years old. I assume they are a moderate fire hazard, and halfway expect to be electrocuted every time I plug them in. They’re the old kind of frosted glass bulbs and have a kind of wholesome, solid luminescence. Nothing quite like their bright, almost creamy colors seems to exist anywhere in the vast spectrum of modern manufacturing, except perhaps in blatant and tuneless parody.
They are of course nearly impossible to photograph with a cellphone.
I’m listening to Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas, which I’ve concluded is something of a monumental document, as holiday song box set releases go, and is probably destined for legendary status within the genre - a genre it inhabits with little dissembling, and whose boundaries it quietly extends.
Christmas music, it turns out on reflection, has been kind of an important fact in my life. My father has to be actively restrained from playing the stuff starting in October, and has curated a sort of personal canon of the holiday.
Consequently: I have been to more than one Mannheim Steamroller concert. I know all the words to multiple cowboy-themed Christmas albums, as well as the songs from both the 1970 Albert Finney Scrooge and the 1990-something Muppet Christmas Carol. I generally loathe songs about reindeer, but dozens of them periodically swim just below the surface of my brain. The last thing any of my ex-girlfriends own that I sincerely wish I’d kept is a box full of Nebraska farm sale holiday record vinyl.
I’ve never thought of my father as an exceptionally religious man, but it seems to me now that he’s an observant one. It’s just that he observes the elements of a certain quiet folk religion more faithfully than the more arid demands of an official Christianity.
The particulars differ, but I suppose he and I have quite a bit in common.