My father didn't leave me much when he died at the relatively young age of 53, save his name and a savant like recall of classic Christmas carols.
We were living on the army base at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Only three of our eventual brood of seven kids were born then. At Christmas time, dad would declare; "it's time to sing along with Mitch Miller and the gang!"
He'd break out that album of the same name, hand us the lyrics sheets tucked neatly inside, and we would sing along with the album. My mother, father, sister, brother and me.
We weren't terribly religious but those songs extolling the child "whom angels greet with anthems sweet", resonated. We'd sing them so often, I memorized not just the lyrics, but the order in which the songs appeared on the album!
Something about the rhythm of "let nothing you dismay. remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day". The incantation. The promise that "God and sinners reconciled".
The phrases had little meaning then, but they rolled off my seven-year-old tongue and gave birth to a life-long love affair with word and rhyme, both sung and spoken.
"Field and fountain, moor and mountain..."
I'm older now and my children are young adults. The magic of the season is overshadowed by my angst over what to buy those on my list and how much I can afford to spend.
The season can easily lose its meaning, but I'm ever thankful for the life-long gift my father left me.
It brings me incredible comfort. Tidings of comfort.