Wednesday, December 24, 2014

For Christmas: Muddling Through or Hanging a Star

Two Sides of Christmas

Christmas this year feels bipolar, feels split, feels weird.

On one hand, it is Christmas, a season of hope and good wishes.

On the other hand, Vermont Yankee is closing forever--on Monday. Many people's lives are being changed, disrupted, hurt.

One of my favorite Christmas songs expresses these feelings: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  The song's words acknowledge the bipolar, uncertain nature of a WWII Christmas.

"Through the years we all will be together,
If the Fates allow."

(Here's a link to the lyrics.)

Muddling and Boughs

As a matter of fact, the lyrics for this song are themselves uncertain (link to Wikipedia history).

The WWII Judy Garland version was:
"If the Fates allow,
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow."

This version was very popular during and after the war.  It was the only version at the time.

In the fifties, Frank Sinatra recorded an album called Cheerful Christmas.  He was not happy with the "muddle through" line.  He asked the song-writer to make it a little more cheerful, please!

So the line was changed:
"If the Fates allow,
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough."

That's definitely more cheerful, and that is how it is usually sung today.

Usually but not always.  There's a website: The 50 Best Versions of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, In Order. This website lists different artists singing the song.  Next to each artist is a note for the version the artist sings: M or H (or sometimes M and H).  M for Muddle through.  H for Hang a star.  

The artist decided which version is "my version."

Two Sides Again

I guess we all get to choose which version is "my version."  For me, both versions are "my version." Sometimes I'm muddling through my sadness; sometimes I'm hanging a star for the future.

The version I share below is the hopeful version.  As a matter of fact, it's Frank Sinatra singing the Frank Sinatra version.

My wish for you:

Be happy.  Be healthy.

May you and your family have a good Christmas and a good New Year.   


Steve Aplin said...

I'm for the M-version. It's hopeful too, only it puts things in a way that resonates with more people. Both of my grandmothers muddled through the pre-war, the war itself, and the post-war. One of them (the only one I was able to communicate one-on-one with), spoke of those times with some affection and absolutely no sugar-coating. She loved to sing songs from back then, though I can't remember if this one was one of them. She used to shovel coal into the home boiler to keep the place warm and pipes from freezing. She once cooked a Christmas goose for us all, when I was about seven. It was a huge deal for her.

The other one, my mom's mom... that was muddling on a whole different level. She didn't even have electricity until after the war. She enjoyed it for about 8 years, at which time she and the rest of that side of the family, homesick and not fitting in "here," responded to Krushchev's "Return to the Homeland" propaganda and returned to the homeland, which was a war-ravaged village in western Ukraine.

Somehow they muddled through till the seventies, when they were permitted to re-emigrate to Canada.

There are people today, in my affluent province of Ontario and elsewhere, who still heat with wood and draw water from a hole in the ice with a pail, and not because it's their romantic winter rustic cottage but because compared with grid electricity it's affordable. They are muddling through the season, even as I write this.

Here, as in Vermont, it has become politically fashionable to put up the price of power. It's a sin tax, because, you know, electricity is bad. The crowd that pushes such philosophy tends to also be anti-nuclear. Cheap, reliable power is something to avoid.

Here's to those who feel the effects of such thinking on their own human hide.

Anonymous said...

This will probably be our last Christmas in our home. If my calculations are correct, the severance and unemployment should be gone by the end of the summer. I'm guessing maybe three months for foreclosure and eviction. Guess that'll be around Thanksgiving. But it will keep the kids in school another year. After that, I don't know, but we'll keep the life insurance paid up. Here's a last-minute gift idea: send your Governor a big bag of dung along with a balloon full of man-made natural gas. No matter what happens to the rest of us, I'm sure his family will be warm and well-fed.

Howard Shaffer said...

Great post and great comment. Steve's comment about those who want to make policies and those who bear the brunt reminds me of former New York City mayor John Lindsey's definition of them. "Limousine Liberals."
They are close cousins to a group that Clare Booth Luce dubbed the "Blame America First" crowd.
I'm fearful for those who will get hurt by rolling blackouts this winter, if it is severe.
Howard Shaffer