I have several favorite holiday albums, the all-time fave being Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” which I can sing from start to finish — much to my teenage daughters’ dismay. Luckily for them, however, I don’t often play another of my favorites, Barbra Streisand’s “A Christmas Album.” Well, at least not as often as my mom did when my sister and I were growing up, which would be pretty much every day during the month of December, years 1967 – 1983.
Given all that air time, it was probably inevitable that the music would grow on me — even the song that my sister and I hated with a vengeance. Each year, we could count on being subjected to my mother’s sing-along-with-Babs rendition of “The Best Gift”, mom’s eyes growing all misty as she belted out the sentimental lyrics.
Hoo boy. I’m surprised my sister and I didn’t get migraines from all the eye rolling we executed during our teen years.
Then, a few decades later…I became a mom. My girls were born just two months before Christmas, two years apart.
In 1997, as I held two-month old Kate in my arms, dancing her to sleep to a mix of Christmas songs, Barbra’s song came up in my cd carousel. And it hit me.
Something had changed.
The words no longer felt quite as sappy and saccharine. Instead of sneering sarcasm, they inspired in me a deep, lovely happiness and gratitude.
I don’t need to tell anyone that our children are gifts. Imperfect, messy, noisy and infuriating gifts – yet wondrous and glorious nonetheless.
But just in case, right in time for the holidays, here’s a very sweet reminder.
The Best Gift
The best gift that I ever got
didn’t really weigh a lot;
it didn’t have a ribbon ’round
and it sometimes made the terrible sound.
The best of all, it seems to me,
it wasn’t ‘neath the Christmas tree;
and yet, I guess I’d have to say
that it made all the other presents twice as gay.
The best gift that I’ve ever known
I’d always wanted most to own,
yet in my dreams of sugar and spice,
I never thought it could be so nice.
The best gift that I ever get
was sometimes dry and sometimes wet,
was usually pink but oftentimes red
as it lay so innocently in its bed.
The best gift of the year to me,
the one I hold most dear to me –
a gift that simply drove me wild
was a tiny new born child…
by Lan O’Kun