While I am much older than Lucas Grabeel, I too grew up with “Classics” such as, “White Christmas” and had those classic moments like singing loudly in public school, “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” We even meant it back then when we sang, “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.”
My Christmas seasons have always been inclusionary. Anyone wanting to celebrate Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All was just fine with me. The whole American Christmas legal holiday good cheer on our lips does make some people angry and resentful. Me, I am calling it Christmas until Congress votes to change the name to something else. I do have to confess that the holiday season is a reason all its own and is a bonus to all I have experience over the years from one Christmas to another with my loved ones.
My sister asked last week which Christmas I remember best. They all blur together with many that have meaning for me. I remember best the “Oh Susanna Guitar” Christmas which would have been more appropriate now with our newly elected governor than it was back in the 1950s.
I had lobbied Santa and everyone else who would listen desperately for a drum set. My mother agreed that Santa might bring a drum set as long as it was delivered after her death and while she lay in the doorway which was mom-speak for “Over my dead body.”
When I tore the wrapping paper off I could not believe my eyes. The tag said that it was from my Uncle Gene. As I opened the box and pulled out the guitar my mother, father and I all said at the same time, “Oh my God!”
It wasn’t a real guitar; rather, it had a crank which when turned played “Oh Susanna.” I turned the crank and the song was a hit. Uncle Gene had a big smile, even when my mother, while bringing him a cup of coffee, accidentally poured it on him.
I played the song again while they cleaned up the coffee. It was an easy song to play so I decided to sing along and even added some yodeling and a few high pitch yips and yaps here and there. I was Johnny One Song all Christmas day. Upon reflection I do remember that my parents looked a little frayed by the end of the day.
Then it was time to brush my teeth, say my prayers and go to bed. I played the song one last time for my mother and added some great yodels. What a great Christmas! The next morning I jumped up, grabbed the guitar and turned the crank. No sound came out. Can you believe it? The guitar simply broke while I was fast asleep. I was crestfallen. It just sat there and looked like a guitar, but no song played. My uncle felt my pain and like me looked glum. I asked him hopefully, “Can you fix this?” He looked at my mother who was his older sister and reluctantly shook his head. We called him Uncle Genius, and if he couldn’t fix it, heck it was broken for good since he was an electrical engineer.
I admit I suspected that one of the grown-ups had some hand in the guitar not working, so I asked my mother if she had been playing “Old Susanna” after I was asleep. Her expression wavered between hysteria and alarm. She firmly stated that no one had been playing “Oh Susanna” while I slept. So the guitar broke on its own. My brother Bill said Santa had broken it because he didn’t like the song, but I did not believe him.
Like all of my Christmases then and now the guitar that broke Christmas night is just part of the holiday lore. Maybe Santa really did not like the song, but I doubt it.