The 20-30 minute drive from my house to Costco is always filled with music. Since the girls were born, I’ve loaded them in Lola (my first Jeep) and then Burt Reynolds (my second Jeep), and we’d drive with the windows down and the music up from San Jose to Cabo San Lucas.
Early in the morning, at midday and in the evening they’ve learned the songs.
They’ve learned Lionel and James Taylor.
They’ve sung along with Dolly and Anne Murray.
From Sara Bareilles to Garth Brooks, Our Lady Peace, Zac Brown, Dave Matthews, to Lauren Daigle, we sing.
At Christmastime, two albums are a must: Kenny and Dolly’s Christmas Album and The Judds Christmas album.
Today, we listened to The Judds:
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem,
Shinning far through shadows dimmed,
Giving the life for those who long have gone on…
And, it happened.
Guiding the wise men on their way,
Unto the place where Jesus lay,
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem, shine on.
And I remember.
I remember sitting in the car next to my Mom.
She was an arm’s reach away.
You guys, just an arm’s reach away. I could have reached over, touched her hand…
Oh. To be an arm’s reach away from her again…
The Judd’s tape in the cassette deck, her slight, Shirley-voice mirroring The Judds’ harmony.
And there are my tears.
Oh, I miss my Mom.
The Judd’s Christmas album came out in 1987.
I was 8.
Shirl was 33.
Each year we’d get out the Christmas decorations and in one box were the Christmas tapes.
We sang them in the car.
Every year at Christmas time, these songs.
I think back to when I was 15 and she was 40, the same age that I am today….
What was she thinking when she was singing these songs?
What was she feeling?
Was she tired?
Was she happy?
Was she overwhelmed?
Did she wonder how she was doing as a Mom?
What was she thinking about?
Did she know that at that moment she was making sweet memories for me?
Did she know that I would grow up and buy The Judds CD when I was in college, and then later, download the Judd’s Christmas album on every device I own?
Did she know that her granddaughters would karaoke to a burned Judd’s Christmas album CD in their Frozen CD player when they were toddlers? Complete with a slight country twang?
And that I’d stream the album in my car… and my girls would sing along with it, too?
The methods have evolved over the years — from tape to CD to music in the cloud — but the feeling when I hear the songs…
…same, same. The legacy continues.
Oh beautiful star the hope of light
Guiding the pilgrims through the night
Over the mountains ’till the break of dawn.
Christmas is hard.
Our five senses remind us of what was. And maybe of what wasn’t.
I don’t think there is any other time of the year that assaults us with a constant barrage of memories.
That ornament that someone gave us…
That smell of those cookies…
The sound of that music…
That one Christmas morning…
Give yourself grace throughout this month.
Feel your feelings.
If you don’t allow them to come out, they’ll sneak up on you in other ways:
You’ll feel short-tempered and frustrated, or exhausted, or just, plain sad.
The feelings need to come out.
Sit. Write. Talk with someone. Remember.
Cry. Remember some more. Smile. Laugh. Cry some more.
Cry for what was, cry for what wasn’t.
Feel it, friends.
So, I cried my way home from Costco and sang through the tears.
I thought of her the whole way.
As I get older, I notice that I think of her at my current age. I wish I could ask her so many questions…
…but knowing that she once sang the exact same words, the same songs, while traveling her own road, with her daughters in the car an arm’s reach away, brings me a bit of peace and solidarity.
Two strong mamas.
Gettin’ it done.
Showing our girls how to get it done, too.
We may not be here, physically, with our people.
But the whispers — the songs, the reminders — they’re here.
And it’s our job, no — it’s our privilege, to honor them.
Even on our way home from Costco.
So, each Christmas time, you can count on a few things from me:
- Dolly and Kenny’s Christmas album on repeat during Christmas cooking baking.
- The Judd’s Christmas album on about 70% of the time.
- And me crying. Because I miss my Mom and because I know that one day, my girls are going to be driving their own roads, singing along to these songs…maybe missing me?
Into the land of perfect day,
It will give out a lovely ray,
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on.
Hug to you, friends.