This song by Robert Earl Keene makes me cry every single time I listen. Not big tears; it simply plucks nerve endings from some Christmases Past. The Baron thinks I may have posted this before — could be, since it was first put up on You Tube in 2006, and I like to repeat a good thing. Evidently others feel the same way since it now has the better part of two million views.
You may have to be an American to understand why this fond reflection on lower middle class family traditions sounds such a responsive chord, or why it seems so deft and so lovingly rendered. Trust me, Robert Earle Keene doesn’t strike one condescending note.
In the song he mentions that one of his kin “drove in from Harlingen”. That’s Harlingen, Texas, after the Frisian town of the same name in the Netherlands. The town in Texas wins awards for its all-American character.
Notice that all the Christmas songs he includes are actually church hymns. Once those very same tunes resounded on the bustling downtown sidewalks and later in shopping malls, playing incessantly through the loudspeakers all season long. That was back when the “season” began around the first of December.
Those times are gone. Where you can hear the music at all, usually in some huge indoor mall, there is only “Winter Wonderland” or something equally bland on offer. God forbid anyone’s fragile sensibilities be offended by songs of straggling shepherds or the random angel of peace. As this aggressive secularization spreads into our holidays, the crowds are noticeably thinning.
Those two factors may or may not be causally linked.
So you can sing along, here are the lyrics:
Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch and homemade eggnog
Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn’t know what to think of him until he sang
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad
Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife Mary Nell
Of course he brought his new wife Kay
Who talks all about AA
Chain smoking while the stereo plays Noel, Noel
The First Noel
Carve the Turkey
Turn the ball game on
It’s margaritas when the eggnog’s gone
Send somebody to the Quickpak Store
We need some ice and an extension cord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites
A box of Pampers, Marlboro Lights
Hallelujah everybody say ‘cheese’
Merry Christmas from the family
Fred and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can’t remember how I’m kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motor home in
They blew our Christmas lights
Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited out on our front lawn
He threw the breaker and the lights came on
And we sang Silent Night, Silent Night, Oh Holy Night
Carve the turkey turn the ball game on
It’s Bloody Marys
Cause We All Want One!
Send somebody to the Stop ’N ’ Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites
A box of Tampons, some Salem Lights
Hallelujah, everybody say ‘cheese’
Merry Christmas from the Family
This is a song for Christmas evening, when entropy reigns and no one cares.
The days of work preparing for the feast are a memory, the feast has been mostly consumed, only the clean-up and stashing of leftovers remains.
Glitter sparkles in the rug where it fell off some curling ribbon. The children are asleep here and there — on the sofa, behind the tree, on top of the coats in the guest room. The remaining cranky one is about to be lulled into his blanket and placed on Great-Grandpa’s lap in the padded rocking chair.
Finally, the old tom cat pokes his head out from under the couch. Is it safe yet?
Hat tip: One of our family members reminded me.