“Play Starry, Starry Night!”
For as long as I can remember, my Dad played the acoustic guitar for his daughters. And for as far back as the sweet sound of those guitar melodies go in my mind’s ear, I can remember asking him to play Starry, Starry Night (or, Vincent). Over and over I’d ask. And again and again he would play. Fingerpicking like a master musician. Getting lost in the sounds of beauty. That guitar playing will always be a part of my youth – of my heart. And since it’s my turn to share on the Fa, La La, La-Giveaway blog tour today, this is my favorite Christmas memory…
I woke up early that snowy weekday.
I expected Dad would go to work, and the bus would come and pick us up for school like usual. But not this morning. Dawn hadn’t yet tipped the edges of the sky. I looked out the window and could just see the outline of snow falling against the black night, like confetti dancing in front of the glass panes. And so I walked out to the living room in my nightgown and socks, rubbing my eyes in leftover sleep, wondering why the day had not yet begun.
The Christmas tree was lit. The room was warm, welcoming. A fire burned on the stone hearth. Confused, I trekked into the kitchen. I found my Mom there and asked if it was the middle of the night. She said No, that it had snowed quite a bit – was still snowing, in fact – and that school had been cancelled. My Dad wasn’t driving to work either. It didn’t happen often, but the Ohio roads were not passable. It was early morning still, but we had been gifted with a rare Christmas snow day together.
“Do you want some hot chocolate?” she whispered. (My sister was still asleep and we didn’t want to wake her.)
I remember smiling. And nodding. I knew the hot chocolate would be handed to me in my own special Santa mug (the one we used each year only at Christmas). It would have marshmallows and a spoon for sipping. And I could have as much of it as I wanted.
I wandered into the living room. And there he was — my Dad. The architect who always wore a suit and drove off to the office in the morning. He sat on the edge of the hearth, having just taken his guitar from its case. He sat there quietly, with gentle hands testing and tightening the strings. I sat on the couch and curled my little legs up under me. And I said what I always said: “Play Starry, Starry Night for me, Dad.”
And he did. He played the world awake. He played until the sun came up and a memory encased itself in my heart. There was beauty and security and warmth in that room. And as the Christmas snow fell and the Santa mug was emptied of its contents, I listened. I watched the snow outside. I gazed at the twinkling of our tree. And I saw my Dad, who’s gone now and still has no idea what a memory he made for me that day. I’m not sure I ever told him what that morning meant to me. And if gifted with any Christmas wish? I think I’d go back. I’d probably stay on the couch a little longer. I’d drink a little slower and listen a little deeper. I’d ask him to play, and play, and play for me.
It’s the second holiday season we’re spending without my Dad and in many ways, this one has been tougher on my heart than last year. We’re a full year down the road. It’s been more than 365 days since I’ve heard his voice. I didn’t buy a birthday gift or cook him a Father’s Day meal this year. We didn’t have any of our usual mid-day business lunches, or holiday morning coconut mocha coffee. I couldn’t tease him about his football team’s terrible season, and he wasn’t there to tease me about mine. And today, it’s the first time I’ve dared listen to this song without my Dad as the one playing it.
One of the lyrics in the song is: “And now I understand.”
Yes, now I do. Christmas memories can be bittersweet. They can be glorious and full of magic. And laughter. And Santa mugs teeming with marshmallows. And they can even hide a few shadows of pain too. But the point is – the one thing I must remember alongside that snowy, guitar-filled morning – is that it did happen. I lived it. I had the blessing of that gift. And the God who cared enough to give it to me that day is the same God who saw my tears last year, and the same, loving Father who’s drying them today.
I pray your snow day memory — whatever your Starry, Starry Night happens to be — I pray it’s sweet and blessed beyond measure. Someday, today will be a memory, won’t it? And someday, many Christmases from now, I’ll get to hear that guitar playing again. (Thank you, Jesus, for the treasure of my heart and the hope of heaven.)
When that day comes, I know what I’m going to ask Dad to play. : )
With Joy in beloved Christmas memories,
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