“The Chipmunk Song” is a tool of peace. Really.
No, I haven’t had too much eggnog. Perhaps I should explain.
For my wife Heather, the Christmas season doesn’t really start until she hears the Chipmunks Christmas album, including the squeaky-voiced perennial about how much Alvin wants a hula hoop. (Are you hearing it in your head now? I’m sorry.) It’s one of two albums that gets played when we decorate our tree each year, along with my own family’s tradition of “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.”
But never mind our tree right now. The really important one in the story is G-ma’s.
“G-ma” was Heather’s Grandma Marilyn. Every year, Heather and her siblings and her mom (and often the rest of us spousal hangers-on) would make the short trek to help put up her tree. There’d be stories and ornaments and minor chaos and everything else you’d expect at such an occasion.
And, at Heather’s insistence, there would also be “The Chipmunk Song.” Because one does. And because G-ma’s laughter and smile at it never changed.
Time passed. And so did G-ma.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, we lost Marilyn in July. It left a hole. It always does when love and memories have grown strong. When the memories belong to a loving, strong-willed and lively soul, that hole gets even bigger.
Especially at the holidays.
There’s something about the season of togetherness that makes the empty chair stand out even more. And when December arrived, it felt off-balance without G-ma’s tree.
So Heather’s family put one up anyway.
A small tree. By the graveside. Decorated, of course. And there in the cold, Heather’s sister decided there was still just one thing missing.
At her suggestion, Heather pulled out her phone. And soon, the tinny strains of “The Chipmunk Song” were pealing out once more.
All was right.
And that, at its heart, is the picture of peace.
We often misuse the word, shouting “give me some peace!” when a situation gets too loud or contentious. Peace becomes a simple end to conflict, by whatever means, a way of restoring quiet and keeping order.
But there’s an older meaning. One that’s still in the backdrop of a hundred Christmas carols. As a friend of mine likes to note, in old Greek the word means an interweaving, the connections between others that create harmony. When those connections are strong, when all is as it should be, peace reigns.
That’s a powerful gift. One we need badly.
We’re good at dividing, great at shouting, not always so good at listening. Peace demands that we listen, learn and try to understand. That we see those around us as our strength, not our burden. It calls on us to reach out, lift up, and make each other whole.
It’s not always a quiet process and rarely a simple one. But when we honor those connections, we make something beautiful. A beginning. A space. Something that binds us all, even if it’s in the tones of a novelty Christmas song.
The hula hoop is just a bonus.
May peace find you all. In all its meanings. Together, we just may be able to evoke, with a slight alteration, another, older song.
All is calm.
All is right.