As a kid, for me, part of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year was what was on prime time. My kids have DVD collections of all the old Christmas specials and look at me aghast when I explain that in my younger years, Rudolph only came on television once a year one time. If you saw it, you saw it and if you didn't, too bad for you.
It's my version of walking to school in the snow uphill both ways.
My kids are amazed at how hard we had it back in the day when it came to viewing our favorite Christmas specials.
I tell them it built character.
Truth be told, I was an absolute holiday special junkie. I watched all the claymation and bad animation broadcasts. I watched the Mandrell sisters. I watched the Donnie and Marie extravaganza.
And then there was my favorite (aside from Rudolph, of course).
The Bing Crosby Christmas Special.
Bing hosted a Christmas special each year on ABC for many years. Those specials were a cornerstone of the season for me until his final broadcast in 1977 when I was ten. We had his White Christmas album on LP and his smooth crooning seemed the very sound of Noel to me and to be able to watch the man that matched the voice on the console set in the family room, well, it was the stuff of magic.
Perhaps because he looked like a suburban dad, not some exotic star from distant Hollywood (which, given the fact I spent most of my growing up years living outside of L.A. makes Hollywood not so distant...) but someone you could run into at the grocery store, he seemed the image of reliable Christmas authority. While I don't remember many of the details of his yearly Yuletide show, there is one episode that stands out in memory. It took place in what was supposed to be Bing's home and he and his wife were awaiting the arrival of some of their grown kids, with blizzard-like conditions eminent and Bing being given the perfect opportunity to sing "White Christmas".
The very set and scene of Christmas.
And in my young mind, the images of their 'home' and the blanket of 'snowfall' and the anticipation of 'arriving guests' became a standard of what a holiday should look and sound like.
Because there are those Christmases past that you hold dear in your memory.
And then there are those Christmases you hold dear that you actually never had.
But you still think somehow that's how Christmas is supposed to be.
If I could just get the house looking a certain way. If I'd just gotten those sugar cookies decorated. If it would just get a little colder than 50 degrees. If the kids were in hand-smocked jumpers. If we could just go ice skating and if there was just some hot cocoa and if carolers showed up at just the right time and if there could be some snowflakes falling on cue and if the Christmas tree were not just a hodgepodge but a true decor designer piece...
Then Bing could be proud.
Because truth be told, the Bing Crosby Christmas Special was not shot in a home snuggled in the snowy mountains alongside a lake. It was shot in Burbank. On a set. And the snow that was coming down was plastic. And those grown kids who struggled through the pretend blizzard would go on to write a very unflattering book about their father and his struggles with rage and alcohol.
And that's not a holiday special I would care to replicate.
Present. A fabulous gift. The ability to enjoy the season we are in, with its hectic schedule and mess and unscripted events. To be present.
To soak it in, imperfections and all.