When Adam and Kate were young, I drove them to school each day. We had a system for who got to choose the radio station on any given day (This was, of course, pre-Bluetooth/pre-Spotify.): Adam got to choose on Mondays and Wednesdays; Kate got to choose on Tuesdays and Thursdays; I got to choose on Fridays. As a result of this system, they both learned the words to more than one Barbra Streisand song and nearly the entire soundtrack to "Guys and Dolls."
A couple of weeks before Christmas, the Friday morning offerings became seasonal and our particular favorite was Amy Grant's "A Christmas Album," the first track of which is "Tender Tennessee Christmas." In case you don't know it, the chorus goes:
Another tender Tennessee Christmas
The only Christmas for me
Where the love circles around us
Like the gifts around our tree
Well, I know there's more snow
Up in Colorado
Than my roof will ever see
But a tender Tennessee Christmas
Is the only Christmas for me
This morning, Christmas Eve morning, I was ready. I lifted the needle (Yes, I still have a turntable.) and dropped it gently onto the vinyl that is nearly 40 years old. It took only a couple of chords of the guitar to send me back to those days when the passenger seats were occupied by two towheads whose Santa lists included remote control cars and Teddy Ruxpin, remote control trucks and Cabbage Patch kids, remote control anything and Colorforms. They had no idea what Amy Grant meant by tender.
But I did. It described the way my heart swelled like a post-Cindy Lou Grinch every time I looked at them staring at the lights on the Christmas tree. It described the way my eyes watered as I watched them on the risers with their classmates singing "Jingle Bells." It described the way my voice cracked every time I got to "where the love circles around us."
They are parents now. They buy the gifts and wrap the gifts and watch their children squeal and dance and experience the very best kind of anticipation. I have no idea whether they remember the words to "Tender Tennessee Christmas." It is enough that I do. It is the only gift I want. The only gift I need.
A tender Sandhill Christmas is the only Christmas for me.