December 12, 2012

Songs and movies make Christmas memories

SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — When I was young, it seemed like five years until the next Christmas Day. Now I feel like I’m trying to outrun the holiday.

I loved the Christmas carols, but I also loved singing fun songs like “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” a character first created by Robert L. May for a coloring book giveaway at Montgomery Wards in 1939. He thought about calling him Rollo or Reginald before settling on the name that now connects instantly with kids young and old.

How about “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth…so I can with you Merry Chrithmas,” sung by Spike Jones and the City Slickers, a chart topper for three weeks in 1948?

Other songs that “ring a bell” with me are “Jingle Bell Rock” (1951), “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” (1951), “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1958) and “The Chipmunk Song” by The Chipmunks (1958).

More recent songs, like “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” by Elmo and Patsy (1979) and Kenny Rogers singing “Mary, Did You Know?,” have become favorites of my children and grandchildren.

I bet you’re humming one of these tunes right now.

Nearly everyone has a favorite Christmastime movie. My daughter-in-law, Joanne, faithfully watches “A Christmas Story,” (1983) which includes scenes where one kid dares another to stick his tongue on the frozen lamppost and later gets pink bunny slippers from his aunt. I can relate to both of those memories.

My daughter Carol would rather shave her head than miss “It’s A Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart (1946).

My personal favorite is “Funny Farm” (1988) with Chevy Chase. My husband tells me it’s not officially a Christmas movie, but I just love Yellow Dog, who digs up human bones in the garden; the village folk who dress like a Dickens story to impress the prospective home buyers; and the ending for Andy (Chevy Chase) and Elizabeth (Madolyn Smith). Every Christmas story has a happy ending; thus it’s a Christmas movie.

There are many more, like the newer series “Home Alone,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas,” “Polar Express” and “Elf.”

Tune in to Hallmark Channel any time of day from Dec. 1 to 25, and your Christmas-movie thirst will be satisfied for a whole year.

Memories are what Christmas is all about. Some of mine are good, and some are not so good.

I remember when I was 12 and snooped in my mother’s closet while babysitting and found the beautiful double-tiered pink jewelry box I had asked for. Guess my, “Oh, I love it,” wasn’t good enough acting when I opened it Christmas morning.

My mother took one look at me and said, “You snooped, didn’t you?”

I also have memories of Charlie Brown Christmas trees that my father cut from the family woodlot. My dad made numerous trips back to the lot over the years to cut more branches to plump out the trees. He drilled the center of the tree all the way up, inserted the extra branches, and we all went to bed satisfied that we had a beautiful tree.

The problem: The extra branches didn’t get any water, and the next morning they were upside down looking like somebody had shot them. 

One year, I heard my mother say she would like a new cookie jar. With my babysitting money and a little help from my dad, my siblings and I bought her a cute country pig cookie jar.

I have the vintage vessel in my kitchen, along with a picture of my mom, my sister and my brother, sitting in front of a scrawny Christmas tree, with me holding the cookie jar. No cookies in it now, just the picture for future generations.

My Christmas gift to our readers is easy: abundant happiness in a world not looking quite so happy.

I pray the love that came from heaven on that first Christmas will fill your days, along with lots of happy times with family and friends; I also pray comfort for your heart if this Christmas is overshadowed with grief and sadness beyond your control. Remember, the sun will rise tomorrow, and it will be a brand new day.

I leave you with a few words from “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” my favorite Christmas poem: “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at