My brother’s birthday is December 18th, just a week before Christmas. I was three-and-a-half years old when he was born, and I can still remember the excitement of his arrival combined with the anticipation of the holiday.
In the following years, when we were small children, the annual ritual of decorating the house for Christmas usually coincided with my brother’s birthday. My mother took on most of the project, and we probably tried to assist a little bit. To set the mood, my father would cue up some eight-track recordings of Christmas albums by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra on the stereo. To this day, when I listen to those albums, I feel like I’m back in our family living room, attempting to help with the unpacking of ornaments, waiting for the Christmas tree lights to be plugged in, and pondering the lyrics of the classic songs playing in the background.
When we were old enough to be studying music in grade school, my brother and I became particularly fond of Frank Sinatra’s recording of “The Christmas Waltz.” We liked its self-referential phrase about “this song of mine / in three-quarter time.” Later, in our Spinal Tap-viewing days, we gained an ironic, and then a geniune, appreciation of the Sinatra persona.
I hope my brother will be listening to this album with his own children this year. Here’s a reminder, on his birthday!
Image: album cover from A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, originally released in 1957.