‘Share friendship and joy and music and teasin’ this ChristmasPublished 6:08am Sunday, December 23, 2012
Column: Art Is…, by Bev Jackson Cotterheads
I’m so glad that I grew up in Albert Lea in the 1950s. The music, the cars, the old high school, the movies, the friends — I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
But, there is one memory from my junior high years that still haunts me. There was a lovely old house on Park Avenue that had no electricity and badly needed painting and repairing. It was the home of the Simms sisters. Early in the 20th century their father had owned a music store at a time when people provided their own entertainment and often music was a part of the gatherings. The family was very talented. Two of the sisters studied music in the East and one of them had even sung in Carnegie Hall. But the years had not been kind, and by the mid-1950s they were back in Albert Lea and living alone.
One evening when my friends and I were Christmas caroling, we were dared to sing at their home. We walked up the narrow path in the snow and then stopped at the front steps. We began to sing, “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful,” and three women stepped out on to the porch, all of them wearing shawls. They listened quietly. “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells.” Then they thanked us over and over for sharing our carols, saying it had been many years since anyone had come to their house singing at Christmas time.
We were some pretty sheepish teenagers as we strode back down the little shoveled path. A few years later, the house burned, and their story ended. I wish that life could have been different for them.
So, here I am, 60 years later, again wishing them a merry Christmas. My sincere apologies to Clement Clark Moore and Henry Livingston Jr. who are both credited with having written the original poem which first appeared in print in December 1823.
T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
Three ladies were nestled all snug in their beds,
While memories of happy times danced in their heads.
‘Cause now times were different. They lived humbly, alone.
Once their family was wealthy, the talk of the town.
Oh, people still talked, but it was not the same.
They had almost no money, and their house needed paint.
No one came to their home, to share in the music,
That had once been their lives, their work and their passion.
Santa would not come, to share Christmas joy.
He’d see families with children, sweet girls and boys.
The ladies still hung their stockings, maybe this year,
Santa would visit, uphold memories so dear.
Deep sleep was upon them, in the dark of the night,
No lights or music to make their lives bright.
“When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.
They sprang from their beds to see what was the matter.
When what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver so lively and quick.
They knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
And then in a twinkling they heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
On Dasher! On Dancer! On Prancer! On Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid! On Donder and Blixem!
With bare feet, and shawls wrapped round their shoulders,
They ran down the stairs, though none was the bolder.
Those prim, little ladies knew not what to do.
They just looked at each other while listening to…
The sounds from the fireplace, the whish and the whoosh.
Then Santa dropped down into ashes and soot.
Their eyes were like saucers, as he opened his bag,
And filled all their stockings, and then with a laugh,
He turned to them saying, “Merry Christmas to you!
May your holidays be happy, and the years ahead, too.”
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle.
The ladies were numb, what a wonderful surprise.
They ran to their stockings, not believing their eyes.
The gifts Santa left — notes from neighbors and friends,
All promised to visit, sharing songs without end,
Bringing laughter and music back into their lives,
And happiness mindful of those days gone by.
The sisters danced and they sang, that Christmas Eve night.
Their lives would be changing, much happier and bright.
May you also, dear readers, in this Christmas season,
Share friendship and joy and music and teasin’,
And Santa Claus dreams and sweet cookies, too,
And a blessed new year. Merry Christmas to you!
Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center, which is sponsoring “All That Glitters Is Golden,” the Festival of Trees at Northbridge Mall.