I remember when I was a child, September would come rolling along, and I'd say, "it's almost Christmas!" My siblings would look at me like I was nuts!
But I knew once September showed up, Christmas was right around the corner. Adding to my excitement, the elementary school I attended was in a Jewish synagogue, which meant I had all of the Jewish holidays off!
From September through New Years', I was in holiday bliss!
As I grew up, that excitement continued. Of course, all of the model rockets, racing cars, and radio-controlled gas-powered planes and cars; were replaced by shirts, pants, socks, a watch, and an envelope with some "cash." Still, I loved the holidays!
The people were equally important. I didn't realize it then, but it was the people, my family, friends, and partners in my music career that made the holidays special. The people provided the "heart and soul" during the holidays.
My mom went out of her way to create unique Christmas dinners every year; by this time, she and my dad had separated, and mom had her own space, which provided a different atmosphere; even her cooking had changed from when I was a kid. It looked different; it smelled different, and it tasted out of this world!
My dad was on his way to becoming a chef, leaving the early childhood education business behind. He was now buying "Bona petite" magazine, James Beard cookbooks, and re-creating recipes for Thanksgiving that make you want to slap your grandma! Speaking of which, Nana, she always kicked in her soul food!
Between 1979 and 1980, life looked and felt very different. My brother Marc was gone, and we as a family was still in disbelief and pain, but it was the holidays, you know, that time of year to rejoice, sing, dance, eat good food, and be with the ones you love; it was time to "put on a happy face."
But behind the happy face, I could see the sadness in my parent's eyes. I could feel the pain as Nana sat in a chair thinking about her mom and dad and the loss of her grandson.
As I sit here typing and reflecting. How could I have known that more loss and more pain were on the way? Right now, except for my mom, the loved ones I was enjoying those holidays with are now gone. And at the age of 101, my mother's mom, grandma, is still with us!
The energy, excitement, and feelings of my youth are still part of me, only now I'm the dad, I'm grandpa, I'm uncle Dave!
The people I loved with every bone in my body have all passed on, so here I am, feeling sad, with Christmas 2020 days away, and missing them.
Every holiday season. I seem to get a little quieter than the last. I withdraw into myself, remembering those I loved who are gone, my brother Marc, my dad, my grandparents Nana, Big Daddy, Grandpa, my older sister, so many friends, and family members. I now understand why Nana got quiet during the holidays.
Back in the day, The elders called it "the blues," An entire genre of music was created around these feelings.
B.B.King, Muddy Waters, and Howling Wolf were some of the pioneers of the style. Their music blasted during the holidays when we were at Nana and Big Dad's house.
Like clockwork, I get the blues every holiday season, and 2020 is no exception. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and heartbreak are the main course.
I play my dad's O.C. Smith records a lot. When I hear those songs, I can feel him standing next to me with one hand on my shoulder, then I roll into the queen of soul, and I can feel Nana with her hand on my other shoulder. I add a little B.B. King, and Big Daddy is standing behind me, holding me up as my knees weaken.
Memories of my Marc, my sister Suzzette, Grandpa, my son-in-law, and now Clayton, creates a storm of images and feelings so powerful; my heart sinks as I hold my breath in sorrow.
Most of the time, I go with the feeling. I express it. There are days during the holidays I cry while driving my car, I can be in the studio working on a song, and I bust out in tears! Other times when I'm walking, I'll stop right in my tracks because of a memory from a Christmas past.
Our "emotional flags" tell us something is wrong, something is upsetting us, or something needs healing. During the holidays, our feelings become magnified, the sadness of remembering the people who are no longer physically with us.
We don't always have to act on our emotions; there are times when we can allow them to pass through, acknowledge them, thank them for the reminder and let them go.
I pick and choose which feelings I will act on during the holidays. I find when I don't allow the emotion to express its self. It will bring more "of the blues."
We are all living longer lives; as long as we "keep on living," we have to expect and accept family members and friends to transition, and that's ok; but we don't have to allow it to dampen all of our holiday fun!
Give the blues some love and attention during the holidays!
I believe it's ok to go back, remember, and relive our past to a point if only enough to satisfy our hearts and emotions so that the present holidays are filled with good spirits and fun!