Be good! It could be that, it also could be Glenn Miller or as it is in this case — getting “in the mood” for Christmas. I’m just not…. yet.

In an effort to get there, today’s poem is one that I’ve heard since childhood.

My brothers and I, while riddled with our own “crazies,” have never really worried about public speaking. The reason is our parents and poetry. My mom regarded Frost and Millay as fondly as the scriptures, while Daddy liked Tennyson, Longfellow, and story poems good or bad. What does that have to do with public speaking?

Simple, my parents would gather us around the tape recorder and we would read poems onto cassette. Holding the mike, we would “enunciate, project and bring the story to life.” Then Daddy would play back the recitations….. giving us pointers on timing, language and expression. Two poems I remember vividly, are “Jest ‘Fore Christmas,” and “Casey at the Bat.” If you really use your imagination, you can hear the giggles and the Southern accents and the sleet hitting the storm windows. Smell the hot cider spiked with cinnamon sticks warming on the stove, the cookies coming out of the oven. Now listen…….

Jest ‘Fore Christmas by Edgar Albert Guest

Father calls me William, sister calls me Will,
Mother calls me Willie but the fellers call me Bill!
Mighty glad I ain’t a girl—ruther be a boy,
Without them sashes curls an’ things that’s worn by Fauntleroy!
Love to chawnk green apples an’ go swimmin’ in the lake–
Hate to take the castor-ile they give for belly-ache!
‘Most all the time, the whole year round, there ain’t no flies on me,
But jest’fore Christmas I’m as good as I kin be!

Got a yeller dog named Sport, sick him on the cat.
First thing she knows she doesn’t know where she is at!
Got a clipper sled, an’ when us kids goes out to slide,
‘Long comes the grocery cart, an’ we all hook a ride!
But sometimes when the grocery man is worrited an’ cross,
He reaches at us with his whip, an’ larrups up his hoss,
An’ then I laff an’ holler, “Oh, ye never teched me!”
But jest’fore Christmas I’m as good as I kin be!

Gran’ma says she hopes that when I git to be a man,
I’ll be a missionarer like her oldest brother, Dan,
As was et up by the cannibals that live in Ceylon’s Isle,
Where every prospeck pleases, an’ only man is vile!
But gran’ma she has never been to see a Wild West show,
Nor read the life of Daniel Boone, or else I guess she’d know
That Buff’lo Bill an’ cowboys is good enough for me!
Excep’ jest ‘fore Christmas, when I’m as good as I kin be!

And then old Sport he hangs around, so solemn-like an’ still,
His eyes they seem a-sayin’: “What’s the matter, little Bill?”
The old cat sneaks down off her perch an’ wonders what’s become
Of them two enemies of hern that used to make things hum!
But I am so perlite an’ tend so earnestly to biz,
That mother says to father: “How improved our Willie is!”
But father, havin’ been a boy hisself, suspicions me
When, jest ‘fore Christmas, I’m as good as I kin be!

For Christmas, with its lots an’ lots of candies, cakes an’ toys,
Was made, they say, for proper kids an’ not for naughty boys;
So wash yer face an’ bresh yer hair, an’ mind yer p’s and q’s,
And don’t bust out yer pantaloons, and don’t wear out yer shoes;
Say “Yessum” to the ladies, and “Yessur” to the men,
An’ when they’s company, don’a pass yer plate for pie again;
But, thinkin’ of the things yer’d like to see upon that tree,
Jest ‘fore Christmas be as good as yer kin be!

songs that make you crave mistletoe or candy canes: Put one foot in front of the Other (Miami Relatives — although the Winter Warlock’s version is best); Linus & Lucy (Vince Guaraldi — anything from A Charlie Brown Christmas); Silver and Gold (it has to be Burl Ives); Welcome Christmas (the Who-doris from the Grinch); Mr. Heat Miser (o my gosh — check out Big Bad VooDoo Daddy); Christmas Cookies (George Strait, cute without cloying); Christmas Wrapping (the Waitresses — just so much fun); Feliz Navidad (OK, I just love the DBs version); Carolina Christmas (the Squirrel Nut Zippers — they are so great & they’re from NC); A Marshmallow World (try Dean Martin or the Cheetah Girls to avoid a complete sugar rush); Christmas Day at my House (Patty Loveless, her album Bluegrass & White Snow truly evokes the holiday); Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt’s version is the standard, few others come close); O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Bette Midler’s version sounds just like Advent services every year); I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (I love John Mellancamp’s take — although the 1st time the girls were old enough to hear it, it kind of bothered them); Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Petula Clark’s version is awesome, James Taylor & Natalie Cole are just wow! but the standard around here is the Leon Redbone/Zooey Deschanel cover); The Christmas Song (for something head-spinning try Alex Chilton’s cover); Christmas in Kilarney (just so Bing!); Sugar Rum Cherry (Duke Ellington — if you love the Nutcracker, you have to check out this jazzy masterpiece); ‘Twas the Night before Christmas (speaking of jazz; Art Carney’s recitation just jams); We Need a Little Christmas (from Mame, it’s just cool); It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (while I love Perry Como’s version, Eddy Arnold sang one the we had on an LP when I was a kid); and finally Xmas in Jail (Asleep at the Wheel has the best Texas Swing Christmas album & it’s impossible not to feel a little holly jolly when you listen).

Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas. –> Dale Evans Rogers

Take care,

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