I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of jazz ever composed. Listening to it is like watching snow through a window. The room is warm, something is roasting in the oven, and outside the flakes are falling faintly through the universe and upon the trees, the hedges, the rain gutters, the telephone poles, and the rooftops of a thousand apartment buildings in a very big city. This is where you want to be forever. This is Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here.” It opens with a trembling bass, like someone coming out of the cold, stamping their feet, brushing the snow off their shoulders, hanging up their winter coat, rubbing and blowing on numb fingers, and entering the living room where there is a window for watching the flakes falling faintly upon all the buildings of the living.
In two weeks I’ll be flying back home to Florida (where our extended family lives; where we go every December; where we used to load up the 2002 Honda Odyssey and drive for fourteen hours straight, a vacation in of itself).
It is never a white Christmas, nor is it a particularly extravagant Christmas, but it is our Christmas, and it is perfect. There are things that I once considered flaws in the tradition, like the pull-out bed with an iron bar right where it’s least convenient for your spine, but now I see that it’s part of the grand gestalt of the experience.
We joke a lot about how going home (whichever home that might be) feels a lot like regression, like traveling back in time. And I think a part of me — the part of me that couldn’t wait to be in high school, couldn’t wait to be in college, couldn’t wait to be a “real person” — resented that.
But with each passing year I recognize the ability to travel back in time to be more of a blessing: to have a home, to have means to get there, to have people who greet you with smiles and open arms (and just the right brands of soda.). None of these things are small or trivial, and I worry very often about taking them for granted as more and more moss grows around my life.
I know its a little after the fact to be so explicit about thankfulness, but its a Sunday morning and I’m listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack in preparation for listening to it live later this evening. And, if we’re being honest, listening to it live later this evening is just preparation for listening to it in a couple weeks, in Florida, surrounded by the people with whom I am fortunate enough to grow young and old.
And I’ll be very warm there.
I hope you come in from the cold.