Sunday, November 28, 2010

Memories, Music and Christmas

This weekend has brought two days of strong emotions for Peter W. and me, emotions brought about by memories triggered by music. It's amazing how deeply music affects us, how closely music can be tied to memories.

Yesterday we went to the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony sponsored by the German American Club. We go every year. For Peter, it was the sixth one; for me the fourth. It's a nice tradition, with carols in German and English, and German Christmas cookies, Stollen and coffee afterward.

I was doing fine and enjoying it until we started singing "O Tannenbaum," and then the tears welled up in my eyes and I just couldn't stop them. Peter got misty-eyed, too. The song brought back such dear memories, of our boys during Christmases in Germany, of Peter Anthony singing this song with the Sachsen Kinderchor, of Uncle Helmut lighting the real candles on the fifteen-foot tall tree, of Aunt Toni with little "Peterle" and "Peterle" with his little train conductor hat, all excited about his first electric train when he was two. Of Peter A. singing the part of Joseph in the Christmas Cantata in Sachsen and Katterbach. Of Leif with such joy on his little face opening presents in Japan when he was five or six. Of baking our traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies and bread together. Of all the Christmases we spent with our children when they were small and it was so magical for them.

It's embarrassing to cry in public, something I try hard to control, but the memories brought by the music were too much for me. I loved those days so much and I miss them.

It was "O Tannenbaum" that got me started, though I had trouble with some of the other songs, too. And then Peter W. said that when he sang "Sleep in heavenly peace" at the end of "Silent Night," he was thinking that he hoped Leif was sleeping in heavenly peace, and I lost it again. Just writing this tears stream down my face. I remember saying, "I wish he were just sleeping. But I hope he is at least at peace."

Without the music, I got through the rest of the day without tears, but today I was fighting them again when I was performing with the Women's Chorus. I don't know what it is about the act of performing that changes the depth of feeling of a song. I've been singing those songs all fall without a problem, but just like last year at the concert, there were certain words that choked me up and I couldn't sing for a few measures. One of them was "Merry Christmas, darling. We're apart, that's true, but I can dream and in my dreams I'm Christmasing with you." "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is another one that stabs.

The holidays can be very hard for those who are alone, lonely, depressed and unhappy, or not with those they love, or who have lost someone they love near the holidays or recently. Leif has been dead for two-and-a-half years, and this will be our third Christmas without him. We won't spend it alone and are grateful and happy that we will be with Peter Anthony, Darlene and our grandchildren, and my sister, Lannay and her family. It will be a happy time, and we will enjoy it, but there will be an empty space in my heart for Leif, and I will no doubt fight more tears when I hear certain songs or miss him most acutely.

When our boys were young, Christmas was such a wonderful adventure, full of their wonder and anticipation, their eagerness, utter joy. How fortunate we were to have those days, those moments, those memories. Even with the tears, they are a treasure to be cherished and held close.


This photo of Leif and Peter A. was taken on Christmas Eve in Japan, probably in 1981 when Leif was six years old.

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