I don't have to hear the words. The music alone gives me images in my mind that set me back six decades every time I hear the song.
"City sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style; in the air, there's a feeling of Christmas..."
Those words conjure up a more than just Christmas memories, but Christmas is a good place to begin.
In my mind's eye, I see those so well-dressed city sidewalks. My sidewalks are in Bangor, Maine. The holiday style setting is fluffy flakes of snow coming down in abundance on the streets and sidewalks in 1949. Having just moved from the country and being dependent for a ride everywhere she went, Mama was having a particularly good winter. Living in the city meant if she couldn't walk somewhere, she could take the city bus. She had freedom she'd not had in...well, most likely in her life since childhood.
"Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile..."
Having that freedom meant she could go to one of those festive stores and absorb some of the holiday spirit simply by being one among many shoppers. She carried a paper shopping bag to fill as she found a variety of small, inexpensive, yet useful gifts for family and close friends. She seemed to like the shopping. The wrapping was passed to me.
There wasn't a lot of money, the gifts were simple, but there was a lot of love. World War II was over, the Korean Conflict had seemingly settled enough that life was back on track, and Daddy had found work again. Our family's two older brothers were now living the lives of young married men. My brother next in age to me and I were still at home. We had a faithful dog named Peggy, a wonderful cat named Tippy, and a comfortable place to live in a duplex that allowed growing kids and pets. Yes, there were lots of smiles over those holidays.
As yet there was no television in our home, but the radio played an important role. Christmas sounds were generally softer and gentler then than songs of today; however, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer had become popular just a few years prior, so don't mistakenly think the songs were all related to the birth of Christ. I well recall my early school year Christmas performances including, "Up on the Housetop" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." During my preschool years, my favorite Christmas songs were "Silent Night" and "White Christmas."
"White Christmas" was likely chosen because we had a music score of it sitting on the piano in our living room. The cover picture showed a church building with a steeple and snowflakes falling all around. These were silhouetted in white against a dusty navy blue background. My mother played that old piano with much pleasure. I took her talent for granted; that is, I took it for granted until I tried doing likewise and learned that what came naturally to her wasn't carried through to my genes. She'd never had a music lesson; yet she could play the piano, sing lovely harmony (as she called it) and in her younger days, I was told she had played a pretty mean banjo.
The radio, some records, and Mama's piano playing wasn't the only music in our home. Once in a while Daddy would pull out his old harmonica and play a few tunes. I never grew tired of listening to his playing, but after a while he'd grow breathless or weary from the effort. The music of Mama's singing was also a part of the humming of our household. Once she heard a song she liked, she'd make an effort to learn to sing it. If she could inveigle me into learning the melody, she'd end up singing harmony. Like Daddy, I grew weary much sooner than she. Unlike my piano playing efforts, I did do well in the singing department as long as I stayed with the melody, so the end result was Mama and I made sweet music together.
And so, today as I hear the sounds, I see Mama enjoying life and join her in song, "Silver Bells, Silver Bells...soon it will be Christmas Day..."
© Marilyn Sue (Libby) Moore 12-11-2010