by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
We writers understand that we need to be able to put ourselves into the minds of our characters to tell their stories authentically. Those of us who write for children have to be able to think like a child.
At workshops with Joy Cowley and Rich Wallace, they led us through writing exercises designed to help us get in touch with that child we used to be.
But there is another sure-fire method that will transport me back to my childhood in an instant. Christmas music.
Just a few bars of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Frosty The Snowman", and I am in nursery school, sitting cross-legged on the floor waiting for a visit from Santa Claus. "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" will also take me back to those early years. Did you ever hear the flip-side: "Are My Ears on Straight"?
|Kathy with Santa (front row, far left)|
"O Christmas Tree" puts me at Grandma’s house, hearing her sing the words in German ("O Tannenbaum").
The music of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" or "O Come All Ye Faithful" (in English or the Latin version: "Adeste Fidelis"), and I am surrounded by my grade-school friends, wearing my blue-jumper uniform with a crisp white blouse, standing around the Nativity scene in front of St Ignatius School.
Alvin and the Chipmunks’ "The Christmas Song" reminds me of my brothers playing all our Christmas records on the wrong speed to make them sound like chipmunks, too.
"Winter Wonderland" will land teen-age me in the front seat of a Pontiac Bonneville on a date with a boy who can’t believe I never heard that song before.
And "Silver Bells" might find me at any age (child or adult), with my sister Reene, laughing and singing its verses in our not-close-to-melodic voices. The song has made us think of one another for so many years that whichever of us hears it first each holiday season will call the other so we can “sing” it together. This year we were together the first time we heard it. A special moment of sisterly sharing.
|Kathy, right, with her sister Reene.|
There’s another song that runs through my mind every year, though I don’t ever hear it on the radio, and it isn’t on any of my CD’s. It was an old British rhyme that someone recorded in the 50’s, and my mother had the record. I still know most of the words.
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat.
Won’t you please put a penny in the old man’s hat?
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you.
Christmas is coming, lights are on the tree.
Hang up your stocking for Santa Claus to see.
If you haven’t got a stocking, a little sock will do.
If you haven’t got a little sock, God bless you.
There’s another verse about singing carols. If you haven’t got a carol, a little song will do. If you haven’t got a little song, God bless you.
And now from me to you, no matter what you have or don’t have, no matter how you celebrate or don’t celebrate, no matter whether you believe in Him or not, God bless you!