When I was only six (just a year older than the picture of me above, when I waited patiently for my school bus to arrive for kindergarten), my sister begged my father for a puppy. She knew a family in the neighborhood whose dog had just had a littler of Peek-A-Poos, and there was nothing she wanted more in the world than a dog to call her own.
I remember her pleading with Dad, cupping her hands together to show how little he would stay, how cute he would be, and how she would be so responsible and take care of him in every way. I don’t think Dad needed much convincing, however. A few days later, we hopped into his truck and headed up the street to pick up our new puppy, Toby.
Toby was a great dog–all black with white paws, a white tummy, and a little white goatee that made him look rather funny when he smiled–a snarled lip with one of his lower teeth protruding from his grin. In every way, he was my sister’s dog, but Dad spent so much time with Toby, taking long walks, playing with him outside, and cuddling with him in the early evenings after dinner.
One of the happiest memories I have of Toby is during the holidays when we would play Christmas music. For some reason, he had happy reactions to many of the songs. But this song, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, drove him nuts. He would bark, howl, and dance in circles every time we sang it to him, drawling out the word “wish” and holding on to the “sh” sound as Toby would join us in full howl. It was as if he were singing along with us.
And so every time I hear this song (the Muppets version, the shortest song in my countdown at just 1:05, continues to be a favorite with my own kids), I can’t help but think of those moments in childhood where every moment was grand–waiting for a school bus, playing with our family puppy (who did get just a wee bit bigger than my sister said when she pleaded her case to Dad that he wouldn’t be a bother at all if we got him), and being with Mom, Dad, or Cindy. There was a newness to all of it, an energy that matched Toby’s dancing and howling every time we played this song.
When I play this song today, my two younger children love acting out the roles of the various Muppets talking about the differences between piggy and figgy pudding (still made with bacon), and every time, my son laughs a little harder at Madelyn singing. When I hear his laughter, I feel that young again. I run the reel-to-reel movie in my head of playing with Toby and my sister as we sing our Christmas songs together.
Some moments in childhood keep us young at heart when we need them the most. May you find good memories of Christmases past to warm your hearts this day. May I be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas!