With Christmas just days away, I suddenly find my own existence completely oxymoronic. This time of year, my hypocrisies manifest themselves in countless ways, and to epic proportions. For example, I’m a perpetually cynical, consummately bitter, eternally skeptical bastard who despises anything falsely sugar coated. And yet, my dirty little secret is that I adore Christmas and everything that comes along with it. I loathe over-commercialization, exploitation, profiting from a once deeply religious celebration, and the fact that the true meaning of Christmas has been grossly lost amidst a sea of cartoonish icons and rituals not pertaining in any way to the birth of Christ. And yet, I’m not a proponent of organized religion. I’ll finally admit it, no matter how corny the jingle, or how bizarre and off base the animated story, I love all this Christmas stuff. All of the songs, shows, and freakishly unrelated decorations we’ve grown so accustomed to, make me as happy as…well, a child at Christmas.

I had the most AMAZING childhood. I have nothing but fond memories of my upbringing. But most of my fondest memories were from Christmas time. I don’t remember one single holiday season that wasn’t spectacular and full of happiness and joy. We had a 33 Bing Crosby Christmas album which we played every year without fail around the holidays. There were several other Christmas albums we played as well, but this is one I can still visualize and hear as if I’m holding it in my hand four decades later. It was a white album jacket with only Mr. Crosby’s head wearing a Santa hat adorning it. Over the course of the years, one of my family members had taken a black marker and drawn a pencil thin handlebar mustache, and devilish goatee on Bing. To this day, if I hear any song from that album I can still imagine the exact point where the record skipped from the scratches acquired from many years of use. It was played repeatedly on the turn table of our stereo which was roughly the same size and dimensions of our sofa. Another side effect of this particular album is that I can also sing all the words to “Christmas In Killarney”. I’ve never been to either Ireland or Hawaii however. Given my rate of reproduction, and my income, I’m pretty sure I’ll never visit, either. But it’s still fun to sing along.

Now, a quick side note pertaining to holiday music. Does anyone besides me find it humorously ironic that both Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand have made Christmas albums, each of which have sold millions of copies? Nothing wrong with it, I’m just sayin’. And now back to our story.

In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas it was always super hectic around my house, but all happiness and fun. I remember helping my Dad with decorations both inside and out of the house. I’ll never forget my elation when I reached the age that I could actually contribute to the process and help instead of just watching in complete awe and adulation. Never before, nor since has another child taken such joy in the daunting task of straightening and stretching out a thirty foot strand of outdoor lights then checking each and every bulb individually for flaws and proper insertion. I loved every minute of it! I would then manually feed the strings up to my father on the ladder as he illuminated the exterior of our home like the Griswolds. Once the task was completed, it was always inevitably followed by the same ritual. Dad and I would come in from the cold and sit across the kitchen table from each other, he with his coffee and I with my hot chocolate and marshmallows. I still recall staring at him as I sipped as if he were a conquering hero. I was so immensely grateful to him for including me in the task.

Once the outside of the house was properly adorned for the pending holiday, we would go down to the basement to work on our Christmas garden. This is when Bing, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Mitch Miller and the gang, and several other artists would come in to play providing the eternally memorable soundtrack to my childhood. I would stand watching in awe as Dad painstakingly cleaned and placed each piece of train track, each section of race car track, and each miniature house. He let me help with this as well and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Once everything was in its proper place and functioning, we would sprinkle bags and bags of artificial snow over the whole tiny village.

Looking back on it now, I realize that he didn’t have to do any of this, but he did. He did it every year, without fail, remorse, or hesitation. I know now that the entire process was at the very least, cumbersome. If his goal was to have the happiest little boy in the world and provide him with wonderful holiday memories to last a lifetime, then mission accomplished!

Thank you, Dad. I love you and Merry Christmas.

Thanks for playing along. Until next week,

Syd Nichols