The song I'll Be Home for Christmas by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent has become a traditional part of Christmas in America. Bing Crosby first recorded the song in 1943, at the height of WWII, and it became an instant anthem for soldiers who were away from their families. The tune was recorded by Perry Como in 1946 and then by Frank Sinatra in 1957 and, since then, by nearly every artist who's ever made a Christmas album. My own personal poll of people standing nearby in the office shows that 98% of Americans can sing along with the familiar words: I'll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me. Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree.But what does it mean to be "home"? Is home the structure we clean, maintain, insure and pay the mortgage on each month? Is home the town, the church, the shops that we visit routinely? Or maybe home is the house where we grew up. Our family moved to the house on the farm where my father still lives when I was 16, so it was home for two years before I left. My mother lives in town. Her current address was never mine, yet I've spent so much time there it feels homey. Unfortunately, the beautiful home of my childhood memories was destroyed several years ago. Maybe home is the town where I was a child, attended school, met my future husband... But I haven't lived there for over thirty years. Since we married, Dave and I have lived in a dozen towns spread over three states and each of them was "home" for a time. Currently, we call Green Acres "home." So, if I'll be "home for Christmas", where will I be?
I am the middle child of three. My younger sister still lives in our original hometown and my older sister has moved to another small town about twenty miles away. I am the only one who moved a significant distance. With the exception of 1999-2001, we have lived a three to five hour drive from my family, so we have always traveled for Christmas. But it's been a long time since I've thought of that annual pilgrimage as "going home". Dave and I moved to Verdon last March, so our grown children are now revamping their concept of home. Is Mom and Dad's house "home" even though they've never lived there?
Here's the reason I'm pondering all this... For the first time in twenty-one Christmases, there will be no time where our family - Dave, I and kids - gather at "home" to celebrate. Mitch and Amanda are both in college and have jobs that keep them there at least a portion of school breaks. Amy is far away so we had our celebration with her at Thanksgiving. So, rather than be separated on Christmas, Dave, Amanda and I are packing up (to paraphrase Dr. Seuss) "the ribbons . . . the tags . . . the packages, boxes and bags" - not to mention food - and taking it to Hays where Mitch will be on call. Mitch and one other young man will have the fraternity house to themselves so they are responsible for purchasing a Christmas tree and setting it up. I'm taking some inexpensive ornaments and lights. We'll hang our stockings by the fireplace with care, and consider ourselves "home" for Christmas.
Home, I guess, is wherever the people you love are. Sometimes, home is not so much a physical place as a feeling - comfort, belonging, contentment. Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams. I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.
May Christmas find you surrounded by people - related or not - that you love; by people who make you feel warm and accepted and "at home". And may you pause to reflect on the manger, the Wise Men, the Shepherds - and Christ, who came to Earth to offer you a chance to, truly, go "home."
Here is one of my favorite arrangements of I'll Be Home For Christmas - Love the harmonies. I hope you enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!
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