I had a good year. I wouldn't mind another one. There: plain-spoken, not vain, to the point; a wish, not a request. I still don't know how these things work. Do I toss the salt now?
Somehow this season I kept hearing one holiday song. Sure there are dozens of them, and the standards have been replayed over and over for decades. We can all recite the words. Honestly, I don't always think about what the words really say. But this year, I thought I noticed a little Noel Coward in my noel.
One Christmas twenty years ago, when I was very sad and waiting outside the door of an old brick office for an appointment I didn't want to keep, I heard a guy playing a sax. It kinda bounced off the hollow-sounding spaces several floors below me. It was the darkest, most bluesy version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" you ever heard. I was having anything but. And the haunting melody curled up the stairs and wrapped me in more sadness.
Ever since, I can't hear that song when it doesn't strike me as more sad than glad.
That last refrain ...
"Through the years we all will be together,
If The Fates allow.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough,
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now."
A cautionary tale. The Fates never allow. We all won't "be together" because people pass. Nothing lasts, and so the final thought is punctuated with "now."
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas now."
And I managed this year. It was a quiet little Christmas and quite merry. Just family. Less trappings and trimmings. But enough. Traditions upheld. Stockings stuffed. Gifts exchanged. Fires and chocolates and rum-a-tum tums. It was easy this year.
And now, just days away from ringing in a New Year, I want to be ready. Earnest for what could/should lie ahead. But I want to be careful to acknowledge a year of good health and good friends and an interesting job and exciting travel. I need to point all that out. 'Cause the other part of the song is echoing in my ear: if The Fates allow...
That's the show stopper those damn Fates. They have messed with humans since the beginnings of recorded time. The Romans had them; the Greeks, pagans feared them; even Shakespeare brought them in to stir the pot as he opens "Macbeth," those damn Three Witches... They are to be feared. The Fates.
Which differ entirely from The Muses. Ah, the lovely Muses. They encourage us to sing and dance and write and even learn the sciences. The Muses uplift us. They inspire us. They cannot be urged or sought. You must be in just the right spot to be struck by them. To have a spark of their divine, touch your spark of divine and ignite! Brilliance! They are the desirables.
The Fates... The Muses... It sounds loftier than fairies and leprechauns, right? But are they all versions of the same spirits? Now we speak more often of energy sources and energy pirates and good vibrations and bad juju. It is gods for some cultures, and God for others. Punishment and reward. Disappointment and approval. It can be dizzying to try and find where the nexus of expectations line up. So I don't want to wish, suggest, cajole too hard. Never that. I want to lure, seduce, entice, romance The Fates. A year with the same highs and lows would be just fine. It was bearable and joyful. On balance, a good year. Have I said too much?
There will, regardless, be a new year. There will be gifts unbidden and disappointments unimagined. No predictions. No resolutions. I am of an age I have wished on that "shining star upon the highest bough." Better to wish for a year of happy surprises, good health and, if not actual prosperity, not great losses. Friends to share all those times.
On Monday, on a midnight clear (weathermen are predicting), we will stop for an instant. Raise a glass of cheer and hope, really, for another year to try and get it right. Auld acquaintances will be remembered who The Fates did not allow to remain. Still "we'll take a cup of kindness yet..." and I will be grateful I continue to still search for Muses and fear Fates, here, each day, including Sundays in the Park ...
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.