What Hope Looks Like

I saw Santa crossing Eighth Avenue yesterday afternoon. Then again on 23d & Park last night. That dude is everywhere.

I spent last night in the fine company of Kevin Anthony recording my annual Christmas single: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” We had a ball throwing back the ‘nog and working out harmonies. And while it may not rival Ronnie Spector of even U2’s version, it sure seems to fit in nicely with the ‘Almost Home’ ouvre.

In fact, it fits perfectly. My most distinct holiday memory — and the subject of the only original Christmas song I’ve ever written/recorded — is of Christmas 1980 (also the title of the song). I was seated on the cold vinyl back seat of my father’s red and white ‘Starsky & Hutch’ look-a-like vehicle. Dad was driving. Chris was in the front seat. It was dusk. The bleached Iowa countryside whizzed past. No one was talking. I had my new Capsuela set, and that silky disco shirt I wanted from Marshall Fields. But I don’t remember feeling full, or contented, or even remotely happy.

My father was driving us to a midway point between his parent’s in Waterloo, Iowa, and my mother’ sister’s house in Cedar Rapids. My parents were in the middle of a messy divorce. It was the winter of ‘That Winter’s Planets.’ It was the coldest on record, ever, and since.

We pulled over in Vinton (‘Popcorn Capital of the World’) and made a wordless exchange. And I never lived with my father again.

At my Aunt Bev’s, Chris and I got an Atari 2600, and whatever else it was we wanted. But it didn’t really matter. The house was choked with cigarette smoke and worry. Bodies were slouched on the sofa. Drinks were deep and plentiful. It was a sad time.

So here’s the happy ending: for the first time since 1980, my mom, dad, Chris and me — plus my dad’s wife (of over 20 years) Madonna, my brother’s wife Jen, and their gorgeous new baby Ethan — are having Christmas. Together.

Twenty-four years later, it all comes around. Baby comes home.

If that’s not healing, then I don’t know what healing feels like. And if that’s not hope, well, then I don’t know what hope looks like.

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