Monday, December 8, 2008

A Heartwarming Christmas Memory

It was Christmas 1963. John F Kennedy had been assasinated a few weeks earlier. I was a kid. I don't know what the "mood of the nation" was, but I'd imagine Walter Kronkite would have called it somber.

The neighbors across the street had done the house up for Christmas in a big way. In addition to the usual lights, plastic nativity scene and 2 dimensional rooftop Santa with sleigh, they had installed speakers on the outside of the house. Starting late in the afternoon, and continuing long into the night they would serenade the neighborhood with Christmas music. As i recall, they favored Bing Crosby and Burl Ives.

It had snowed and the lights twinkled on the pristine whiteness as the neighbors sat in the living room, drunk, and listened to their Christmas records. The whole street listened as the needle was roughly jerked from the vinyl, abruptly ending the Xmas songfest.

Then we all heard various stereophonic fumblings as a new record was placed on the turntable and cued up. They played side one of the Vaughan Meader "First Family Album". My mother sniffed and said that was "tasteless". I expected some responsible grownup to go knocking on the neighbor's door to remind them that the outside speakers were still on. No one did that.

After a while, the record ended. The neighbors must have fallen asleep, because I lay awake in bed and listened to the needle bumping up against the end of the record, "sssssBump, sssssBump, ssssssBump" etc. Everyone else had turned off their Christmas lights, but the lights across the street continued to shine until I fell asleep.

Nothing was said about it in the morning.

1 comment:

ib said...

I don't know why this struck a chord; my memories of JFK are those lingering ones after the event. Great story. There is a quietly desperate competitive edge to those Christmas displays in neighbourhood windows. Elves and reindeers on the porch or lawn are worse. It's like getting your nose rubbed in the slush. And, even without outdoor speakers, the demand to participate is deafening.

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