I started, but never finished, several blog posts during December. Between finishing the Christmas shopping, fretting about the coup that seemed in the works, writing five different versions of the Christmas Ghost Story before I was happy, and the stressful deadlines at work where everyone was trying to finish everything before everyone else went on holiday, I just kept not coming back to them. I decided that even though several of them are seasonal, I’m going to just go ahead, finish them, and post.
Every year during Thanksgiving weekend I pull whichever iPod has been living in the car the last several months, and replace with with the iPod that is loaded with Christmas music. So every time I drive anywhere during the holiday season, there’s Christmas music in the car. Loading that iPod is not a matter of simply grabbing as much Christmas music as will fit on it, but selecting music that my poor, long-suffering husband can listen to without setting his teeth on edge. Because while I love, love, love Christmas music of almost all kinds, he has decidely less tolerance for it. Which is easy to handle when I’m listening at home, because I can just wear earphones or AirPods and he doesn’t have to hear what I’m listening to. But in the car it’s another matter.
One of the rules for the car playlist is “No sweet baby Jesus music.” Or more generally, no overtly religious music. Another is that while I can assemble a playlist that is all of the versions of White Christmas (73 different recordings at present) and listen to it just fine, they all sound the same to him. And sometimes the random play feature would throw up several different versions of the same song in close enough proximity that it annoyed him. So only one version of any individual song—though he’s okay if there is both a vocal and an instrumental version.
Since I have nearly 3000 Christmas songs in the library, it’s not that difficult to put together a fairly sizable Christmas music playlist which meets those requirements.
Except when I misremember what a song is.
For some context: way back when I was in the fifth grade in elementary school, the school had a Christmas program made up of all of the kids of each grade singing one song. Or maybe it was each classroom that had a song. The song we learned was Christmas in Kilarney which begins with the words, “The holly green, the ivy green, the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen.” One of the reasons this particular memory sticks out is that my fifth grade teacher was the one who taught us to sing the song. One of his “claims to fame” was that he had spent a couple years after or during college in England. And so he decided we should learn to sing the song in the proper accent. So we spent a lot of time practicing the song the way he wanted us to pronounce things. Which would have been cool if he had been trying to teach us to sing with an Irish accent. But he didn’t. Instead he had us dropping h’s and otherwise went for a very poorly rendered cockney accent.
Whenever that song comes up on a random play, I remember that time trying so hard to learn to pronounce things the way he wanted, and then a few years later realizing that he had been teaching us the wrong accent.
And that’s a cute anecdote, but you’re probably asking what this has to do with selecting songs for the car iPod. Here’s the thing: even though just two paragraphs up I typed the correct title of the song, Christmas in Kilarney, because of those opening lyrics about the holly green and ivy green, whenever I’m looking at a list of song titles, if I see the title The Holly and the Ivy, my brain starts playing the memory of trying to sing Christmas in Kilarney in the wrong accent.
And so, I see the title, think of the bad accent, and add it to the car playlist.
While Christmas in Kilarney is a bouncy secular kind of Christmas song, the The Holly and the Ivy is an old traditional religious song, that is almost always recorded very downbeat and, frankly, in a grindingly boring tempo. It is very religious and abominably repetitive. So not only would it set my husband’s teeth on edge, it almost always sets my teeth on edge.
I suspect that part of the reason I always confuse the songs is that The Holly and the Ivy wasn’t a song that I remember every listening to as a kid. I have never had to learn it to either play or sing in the jillions of holiday concerts and shows I participated in back in the day. The fact that I’ve never performed it probably contributes to why I dislike. There are plenty of other repetitive Christmas songs I do like. For what it’s worth.
Because we’re all in quarantine, I haven’t been driving around nearly as much. All of my Christmas shopping was done online. We didn’t physically get together with anyone during the lead up, and so on. And because I was usually only going out of the house once a week, and the weather was often cold, the iPod would not just go to sleep for all those days, but fully shut itself off. And so one of the routine each time I got in the car was to open the console and take hold of the iPod tight in my hand for a minute or two while the windows defrosted, to warm the iPod enough that it would boot up and talk to the car stereo. And the way the stereo and iPod work together, what this meant was that even though it was on random play, what it actually does is play a randomized list the iPod made when I first connected it to the car with the new list, but it wouldn’t remember where it left off last time, so it would start over. And guess what the third song in that shuffle was?
It took me a few trips before I realized this was what was happening. After wards, I got in the habit of, after I put the iPod back in the console and was nearly ready to pull out of our parking space, I would hit the “skip song” button on the steering wheel twenty or so times to jump past the songs I’d heard on the previous few shopping trips.
The really irritating thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I’ve had to delete that song out of the playlist before. But when I was setting up the list, and looking for songs that I could add or swap out, I put it back in.