Friday, November 10, 2017

I'm a Muddler

Yes, I confess: I'm a muddler.

I've always loved the bittersweet aspect of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"--and in particular, these lines.

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, well have to muddle through somehow

That, to me, is the essence of my love for Christmas. It brings us together--we hope. We never know, though, if we will have an opportunity to share another Christmas. Every year, I know that last Christmas could well be my last Christmas, or your last Christmas, or the last Christmas we will be able to see one another. We don't know what the fates will allow. And all we can do is muddle through like we do every day in our lives, trying to let those future joys carry us through our daily existence. It is a sparkling shard of future joy, but we may never get close enough to fully admire its beauty--and we won't fully appreciate how beautiful it was until that time when it exists in our memories only, and then we'll resign ourselves to muddling through with regrets and wistful pangs.

Reportedly, the lyrics were changed in 1957 at the behest of the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, who was completing a Christmas album entitled A Jolly Christmas. He asked lyricist Hugh Martin, "Do you think you could jolly that up for me?" And thus the revised lyrics were created:

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough

But in revising the lyrics, the human longing for a season of joy in a life of turbulence and uncertainty was lost. The song just doesn't work any longer; the lyrics are unfinished, the message itself muddled by the absence of that original line.

(Speaking of original lines--apparently Martin's original original original line was "If the Lord allows." Some might wonder why he took the religious reference out of a song that celebrates a religiously-themed holiday, but I think he had the best reason of all: "allows' doesn't truly rhyme with "somehow" or "bough," and "Lords" or "gods" would have been forced an inappropriate. "Fates" was an inspired change that fully nuanced the song's meaning while allowing for a full rhyme.)

So no matter which version of the song is played, in my mind, we'll all have to muddle through somehow. That's one of the things that make Christmas so wonderful and so solemn at the same time. If you're muddling through right along with me--well, that's pretty much the way life is, isn't it?

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