Ghost of Christmas Past

The house is quiet.

Perry Como is crooning about Christmastime in the City.
My wine glass is full.

After cleaning out the DVR, I plan to crawl into bed with my book and prepare for a long winter’s nap, not to be interrupted by anything short of an earthquake.

Contentment and satisfaction reign supreme, but then I feel a whispery tap on my shoulder, imploring me to turn away from the ease of the present and remember what is missing.


“HO, HO, HO, time to wake up! It’s Christmas morn!”

I burrowed deeper into my nest of covers and clamped my eyes shut to the light from the window and the booming, cheerful voice I instantly recognized as my father’s.

“Come on now, Tootsie, everyone’s waiting to open presents!”

I was tempted to roll over and dig deeper into my cover-cave, but at the mention of “Tootsie,” his pet name for me, I couldn’t help but acquiesce to his request.

I dragged myself out of bed and followed him down the hall as he cheerfully hummed “Joy to the World” in time to my every step.


The presents had been opened, the wrappings discarded like old dishrags with holes.

The parade on tv was over, and there was nothing more to do than wait for Christmas dinner to be served in the dining room, timed perfectly to conclude just before the start of the football game.

“Tootsie, let’s have some Christmas carols, shall we?”

With an eye roll only a teenager could muster, I shuffled to the piano to indulge the requests for “We Three Kings” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

As I belted out the majestic opening chords of my father’s favorite Christmas carol, I braced myself for the booming baritone that was sure to follow.

And I was not disappointed.


As the last of the presents are wrapped, the wine glass is emptied, and I start off for bed, I pass by the old, out-of-tune Chickering piano and feel like I’m seeing it for the first time.

The rich, cherry-wood exterior, hiding the gilded gold strings inside.  Antique white keys offset with (some) faulty black notes comprise a beautifully grand set that provide an endless recipe for glorious song.

I couldn’t help but sit down on the creaky old bench and dig out my very first Christmas book, the music I’d been playing since I was a kid.

Silent Night

The First Noel

O Come All Ye Faithful

As I tuck into the familiar striking of the notes and placement of my fingers, I can feel the comforting, strong presence of my Dad standing behind me at the bench, belting out each of the carols with uninhibited zeal.

This is the piece of the Christmas experience that I’ve been searching for this year, wanting for, desperately.

Something I wake in the night dreaming of, wandering through the house seeking.

But it will not be found.

He is gone and nothing will bring him back, and I have to remember this over and over.

But he is with me as much as he can be.

In the smile of my son, his namesake.

In the carols I play on the piano, always remembering his favorites.

In the memories I replay of Christmases past.

I take small pieces of all of these holidays gone by, wrap them up in my arms like a newborn baby, and carry them around with me as I go through these days.

And together, these pieces all come together to complete me.

The me that I believe he always knew would be.


Popular Posts