Saturday, January 12, 2013

Friday Dance Party: This Lingering Season

My stocking was handmade by my grandmother when I was only 5 or so.  It hangs in a position of prominence, over my fireplace's mantle, all year long. I don't consider it a Christmas decoration at all, but rather a family treasure.
Usually, by the first week of January, I am ready to move on from the holidays.  I love my Christmas and all that, but by the New Year, I'm done.  Not this year.  For what may be a variety of reasons, I am loathe to let go of the holidays this year.
I put up this misshapen specimen as an afterthought, and despite its obvious shortcomings, I have enjoyed it more than most others in my holiday history.  Perhaps its sorry state is a symbol for the way Christmas limped into town this year.
Part of the reason may be that crooked little tree.  I wrote here about my impulse buy, a Christmas tree which I stuffed into the trunk of my Honda on Christmas Eve.  I tossed some strings of lights and some ornaments on the thing, in a very haphazard way, and called it tannenbaum.  The poor thing slants precariously to the southwest, but I've enjoyed watching the cheap colored lights blink.  For some reason, I can't get rid of it yet.

Apparently, I'm not the only one.  I've run into quite a few friends and others who rather sheepishly admit that their tree is still up.  It seems particularly hard for a number of people to let go of the holidays this year. 
These snowflake lights hang from streetlamps in
DC during the hols. Everyone's back to work,
the new year has begun,
but the snowflakes remain.

It was certainly a stressful, even dismal, Christmastime in and of itself.  Everybody was frustrated about finances, both personal and at the national level (I really wanted to cover the Capitol building with a big tent and gas the place during the whole Fiscal Cliff debacle).  Thousands of people spent the holidays in makeshift, temporary homes after their entire lives were flattened by Sandy.  The horrible shooting in Connecticut only 10 days before Christmas drew a pall over the holiday for the whole country. 
Superstorm Sandy, the Fiscal Cliff, Newtown: Who the hell
was in the mood for Christmas? The Whos, that's who, and it
came just the same.

But there was something comforting about the fact that, to quote Dr Seuss, Christmas came just the same.  Maybe that's why so many of us don't want to let it go this year.

I've already given up some of the accoutrements of the holiday.  As much as I love Christmas music, it loses its charm after month #2, so my dozens of albums of the holiday genre have all been retired until next year. 
This little-known album is a constant presence on my CD
player from November-December.
But in January, it's gotta go.

My Christmas Wine and Martini glasses (yes, I have such things, are you surprised?) have already been packed away until next November. 
But as we approach the middle of January, my misshapen little tree continues to blink in my bay window.  (Only at night, of course, as I find a Christmas tree which is lit during the day to be a little sad.)  But every night when I come home from rehearsal, I plug in the lights on my crooked little tree, and admire the sentiment for a while. 

Yeah, it's probably time to bid Christmas adieu.  But not before one more Dance Party celebrating the season.  There's a melancholy song out there which seems to suit my mood as I let Christmas go;  it's really only marginally a Christmas carol.  "River" is a Joni Mitchell tune, and it's been recorded  by lots and lots of others. 
Robert Downey Jr shocked everyone (and won a Golden Globe) with a dynamic comeback on Ally McBeal.  His 12-episode story arc included several musical sequences, including the first time I ever heard "River." Sadly, he fell off the wagon during hiatus, and he was dumped from the show.  But his musical career continued.
It first came to my attention when Robert Downey, Jr. was guest starring on Ally McBeal, and he delivered a soulful version which has stuck with me all these years.  That particular clip has been removed from YouTube by Fox, and I've been unable to find another clip of him singing it live.  It's my favorite version of the song.  My bittersweet farewell to Christmas calls for "River," so this week's Dance Party features James Taylor's rendition.