“Hello. I’m Grandpa.”
For Christmas 50 years ago, my parents splurged and bought me a compact reel-to-reel tape recorder. My father had whetted my appetite with remarks that one could build a primitive voice recorder along the lines of Thomas Edison’s prototype, but this was the real store-bought deal.
I took the prized possession along when my paternal grandparents hosted Christmas dinner for the very last time.
I think the device is still nestled in my mother’s attic; but even without it, I distinctly remember Grandaddy Carl neglecting his King Leo stick candy long enough to lean forward and humor me by uttering, “Hello. I’m Grandpa” for the benefit of posterity.
Certainly, favorite carols playing over the radio or the shopping mall PA system create priceless Christmas memories; but, like my grandfather’s announcement, there are so many other sounds that warm the cockles of our hearts and create cherished remembrances.
For instance, the laughter that accompanies good-natured ribbing when a new boyfriend or girlfriend meets the extended family for the first time.
Or the woofs, meows and neighs of new pets delivered to their forever home by Santa.
Don’t forget the joyous sound of well-wishers when a family member announces a pregnancy, or when a baby experiences its first Christmas.
We can relive our own childhoods when we overhear youngsters unleashing their imaginations or discovering “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” for the first time.
Even a distressing sound such as spinning tires stuck in snow can be outweighed by the sound of a neighbor (or a total stranger) asking, “What can I do to help?” instead of “What’s in it for me?”
A well-worded, heartfelt prayer over a Christmas meal can fortify us just as much as the protein, vitamins and minerals.
Yes, Christmases seem to come faster and faster; but there is ample time for obstacles, disappointments and disasters between them. That’s why we should embrace all the pleasant audio memories we can get.
On the other hand, some Christmas sounds are toxic.
A respectful exchange of political viewpoints keeps office parties and family get-togethers lively, but overheated ultimatums have no place on the holiday celebrating the Prince of Peace.
Christmas is not the time for families to serve up heaping helpings of long-simmering complaints about favoritism, inheritances or ostentatious displays of wealth. As the Horatio R. Palmer hymn advises, “Angry words, oh, let them never/ From the tongue unbridled slip. / May the heart’s best impulse ever /Check them ere they soil the lip.”
Some people spend all year guaranteeing that the yuletide season will be miserable for themselves and others. Christmas should be a time for togetherness and sharing, not a time for finger-pointing or self-flagellation.
Life gives us enough hard knocks without our wallowing in self-inflicted wounds (whether from dimwitted investments, shortsighted health decisions or hormone-driven shaky relationships). Good planning minimizes the need for abject apologies or violent defensiveness.
I have my “Hello. I’m Grandpa” memories to keep me warm -- as well as the sound made by the “air blaster” toy I received all those decades ago and the ability to conjure up the jokes of long-gone aunts and uncles.
I’m sure you have your own favorite Christmas-connected sounds. I hope that this year you can accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and make new connections that will last throughout the years.
Danny welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”