November – The Choicest Gift
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When I was a kid, every month I received an issue of “World” magazine. One year, the December edition showed a boy and a girl completely inundated with gifts. They must have opened up just about everything in the whole world on Christmas morning (or Chanukah night), including a new robot, which I really, really wanted.
The magazine was an inspiration. It set the bar for the ideal holiday. I stared at it for days, imaging that I was the one unwrapping all of those gifts. It would take hours and hours. I’d start with the small boxes first and work my way up to the robot.
After I’d drooled myself dry, I brought the magazine to my mother’s attention. “I wish I could have all these presents”, I told her. I don’t know why. In my heart I knew that the presents were excessive, but I still wanted all that stuff. I felt greedy just thinking about them, so I assumed my mother would say something like, “those kids are spoiled rotten.” Instead, she completely surprised me. She looked at that mountain of gifts and said, “If I could, I’d get them all for you.”
Those simple words filled me with love in ways that to this day I have trouble finding the words for. No joke. I’ve been working on this paragraph for hours. I write and rewrite and I still can’t get at the emotion. Fundamentally, the words my mother spoke were enlightening. They triggered a realization that, though love could be expressed with presents, the presents themselves were not love. Until then, I had been confusing those two things. The kids in the magazine might have more gifts than me, but they didn’t have more love. I had all the love I needed, right then and there. I didn’t have to wait for it to come on a certain day. I didn’t need to unwrap it. It was just there, always.
For years now I’ve been recording holiday songs. Until now, they have been arrangements of traditional Christmas carols; my interpretation of songs you already knew well. This year is different. Today I’m offering a new holiday song – my tribute to the amazing realization I made all those years ago.
This month’s song features my grandmother’s harmonium. It’s an old, creaky pump organ (you can hear it cracking and popping during both solos) that she gave me long ago. When I visited her as a kid, I’d always run to this instrument as soon as I could and play it. I loved its sound and the way it seemed to “breathe” with each foot-pump. Even the creaks and pops had an endearing character.
Happy holidays everyone. I hope they are great, restful and full of love.
p.s. If you’re not already on my mailing list, sign up! You’ll be the first to be updated about each song as it comes out.
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p.p.s. Here’s the chart!