As a youngster, Christmas Eve was very stressful, the stress increasing – almost painfully – as I lay in bed, praying for sleep that would carry me through to the happiest day of the year.
Sleep didn’t come, of course, not until the wee hours of Christmas morning, and even then it was fitful. The longest nights came after I had a bedside alarm clock. I tried not to glance at it, but I did – over and over and over, the minute-hand seemingly frozen in place.
Many years later I saw myself in a well-known Martin Short character, Ed Grimley. My introduction to Grimley was SCTV, a TV series that pre-dated Short’s appearances on Saturday Night Live. The name of that SCTV skit was The Fella Who Couldn’t Wait for Christmas and young Ed Grimley’s ordeal brought back almost all of the now-hilarious memories of someone who was sleepless in Solvay every December 24, tossing and turning, looking out the window for a hint of sunrise, jumping out of bed because, for cryin’ out loud, it MUST be Christmas by now, and having a parent yell, “Get back to sleep! It’s only 2 a.m.!”
All that was missing from Grimley’s world was something well-remembered by anyone who grew up on or near Russet Lane. Some folks recall them fondly; I, frankly, cursed them for what seemed hours on end. “Them” were the Christmas carols that came from somewhere; I never knew for sure. One of our neighbors was ahead of the times – after all, we hadn’t yet entered the Boom Box Era – and played Christmas music over a speaker at a volume that penetrated my bedroom and the cotton I stuck in my ears.
It all came back to me, thanks to an e-mail from a former Russet Lane neighbor, Dolores Bagozzi Evans. She enjoyed the music, which, after all, was beautiful and perfectly appropriate for the occasion. But me? Instead of Silent Night, I would have preferred the night silent.