Other voices: Home for the holidays

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 2020

From the Winston-Salem Journal


Christmas Eve’ll find me

Where the love light gleams

I’ll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams

As in years past, the bittersweet holiday standard “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” seemed to waft onto the airwaves before we’d eaten our Halloween chocolates.

The tune has always leavened its joy for the season with a undertone of wistful sadness.

Recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby under the title, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams),” the song was written from the point of view of a soldier longing to be home for the holidays … if only he could.

The song has appeared in everything from holiday specials to elevator sound tracks to beer commercials.

This year it holds special resonance because we’re being asked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to forgo large gatherings for Thanksgiving, and presumably into the Christmas season.

That’s because of the threat of an unwanted guest at the table: COVID-19.

“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States,” the CDC says on its website, “the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”

“Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 and the flu,” the CDC advisory added.

The coronavirus is resurging throughout the country, including North Carolina, where deaths eclipsed the 5,000 mark over the weekend and total cases passed 337,000.

More than 250,000 Americans have died from COVID since cases began to surge, as predicted, once temperatures began to cool and more activities moved inside.

As for the old Bing Crosby tune, it was neither written nor released in the best of times in 1943, during World War II. But it was a hit with American civilians and soldiers alike and earned Crosby his fifth gold record.

A G.I. magazine praised Crosby, whose song was especially popular at USO shows, for having done “more for military morale than anyone else of that era.”

However, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” wasn’t as fondly received in Great Britain, where the song was banned by the BBC for fear that it would hurt troop morale.

Not everyone was singing from the same songbook then — and, sadly enough, nor are they now.

Somehow the idea of sacrifice for the greater good has become an affront to freedom or, even worse, a conspiracy against the holidays.

So, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who should know better, tweeted an irresponsible meme over the weekend that suggests that someone is waging a war against Thanksgiving. The meme depicted a turkey accompanied by the dare: “Come and take it.”

You’ll have to pry that drumstick from his dead, cold hands.

Cruz’s tweet came only days after National Guard troops in El Paso, Texas, were helping overwhelmed morgues by loading bodies into refrigerated trailers.

He is not alone in his suggestion that the Grinch wants to steal Thanksgiving and Christmas.

OK. We understand the reluctance to surrender even some of the gentle excesses of turkey day — too much food and too much shopping — taken away from us when so many other normal rites have been either shrunken beyond recognition or placed on indefinite hold.

There’ll be no crowds lining the streets in New York at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

No blockbuster movies to see in theaters.

Duke’s basketball opener, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed.

And college and pro football matchups are being shuffled like pieces in a board game that pits them against whack-a-mole outbreaks.

This is hardly the first time we’ve had to observe a cherished holiday in the shadows of the world’s troubles.

Thanksgiving 1963, only six days after we lost JFK, comes to mind.

Or Thanksgiving in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks had shaken and transformed us forever.

Perhaps what sets this Thanksgiving apart is the power it gives us to save lives — of friends and strangers alike — through simple acts of caution, care and consideration for others.

While we can be grateful for the promise of new vaccines that should be available next year, we can act right now to keep COVID in check in the meantime.

And we can be thankful, that, for all of the pain and disruption the pandemic has caused us today, each of us can do something about it.

A better tomorrow is on the way.

And not only in our dreams.