December 25, 2002 7:33 AM

Christmas Thoughts

I suppose that most of us have songs that bring us back to a time, place, emotion, or a combination of the above. I'm no different than a lot of people in that respect, and I do find that music is a particularly powerful mnemonic device- sometimes a bit TOO powerful.

As I drove to work yesterday, I heard a Christmas song that I haven't heard this season, but almost drove me off the road when I did. "Do They Know It's Christmas" (Feed the World)" is at first blush a catchy pop tune, recorded by an ensemble of artists in the early 80s. The goal was to raise money to feed the starving in Africa, and by all accounts they were spectacularly successful. For me, though, "Do They Know..." has always represented something totally different, for reasons I cannot even begin to understand, much less explain.

Whenever I hear the song, I'm once again standing on Great Russell Street outside the British Museum. It's Christmas Eve, 1984. My ex-wife, mother-in-law, and I were using the Christmas holiday to vacation in Virginia Water, Surrey, just outside of London. We did all the touristy, Christmas holiday things- riding a tourist bus down Oxford & Bond Streets to view the Christmas lights, shopping at Marks & Spencers, spending New Year's Eve in Trafalgar Square, taking the train to and from Victoria Station. Most of the memories have faded, but the one thing that hasn't- and that brings it all rushing back- is that song.

The other thing "Do They Know..." symobolizes to me are all the things I've lost- friends, relationships, a marriage- that cannot be replaced. For some reason, the gravity of the losses represented by the song can absolutely reduce me to tears. That is why I almost had to pull off the road on the way to work. It's tough to drive when you're too busy bawling and weighed down by an almost indescribable sadness. As I am writing this, I heard the song on the radio yet again. Damn....

Perhaps part of the emotion the song stirs up is from the recognition of how truly fortunate I am. This Christmas finds me at a place in my life that truly does not allow for complaints. I've got a wife who adores me, two teenage stepsons from whom I have learned more than I could EVER hope to teach them, and a family I'm finally beginning to reconnect with (not to mention a brand-new laptop with which to indulge my writing jones). I FINALLY am able to get a good night's sleep after all these years. I get to watch ducks and turtles cavort in the lake in our backyard, and I occasionally hit golf balls into that same lake. Life is pretty damn good, isn't it?.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on December 25, 2002 7:33 AM.

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