This is a hard time of year for a lot of people. Whatever struggles and challenges and sorrows you may have during the other eleven months get pushed through a sieve of forced cheerfulness in December, which can just make things worse. I’m a big believer in acknowledging Blue Christmas, taking some time to sit still with reality, and feel it, and maybe even have a good cry over it until you feel a bit better. Or until someone feeds you a Christmas cookie.
When it comes to triggering a good crying jag, I turn to music. I cry when Sarah McLachlan sings to shelter dogs, when Heart sings to Led Zeppelin during the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, and when old men sing tenor on church hymns. When I go to concerts, I pack tissues alongside my ID and beer money because you never know.
There are three sad songs that stand out for me because they function like the simple on/off circuits we all made in middle school science class. They start, I cry. No buildup necessary. I’m sharing them today in case you need to get things moving. Feel free to add your own songs sung blue in the comments.
Take care, and have a a cookie.
1. “Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ, on Two Thematic Ideas and on a Figured Bass by Tomaso Albinoni,” Remo Giazatto
And every time I see this movie I think, oh my god, this guy has such a heart of gold that he actually brought his record player to the front? Now I love him, too, even if he’s neither cute nor on a horse, and I’m weeping, his offscreen wife and I both drowning in our tears over the threat of losing him. The violins, string, and sad, sad organ play on as the camera lingers lovingly on all the scared cute Australian soldiers, now horseless but not like that was going to help them much anyway given the odds, and also who wants to see a horse die in battle. It all adds to the exquisite pain inherent in this song.
2. Breathe Me, by Sia
My husband and I watched the show together religiously, but he was travelling for work during the finale and it was before we had installed the technology to capture and view important cultural moments on our own timetable. I watched the finale alone, on my couch, in the dark, sobbing and throwing used tissues on the ground until I had my own little paper snow pile of sorrow.
When it comes on the radio these days I listen, thinking: oh, Nate. Oh, David. And oh, Ruth, flawed matriarch who despite her shortcomings loved her children so hard. Sob sob sob.
3. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole
Then she said, “And now you are all butterflies flying away to First Grade,” and the adorable kids unfolded their caterpillar drawings to reveal the colorful, loopy butterflies they’d drawn inside, and fourty-four parents and guardians, plus one teacher, fell into catatonic states of weeping. THAT was when the children started not just singing, but using American Sign Language, to sign Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the Bruddah Iz version. When my second daughter performed the same ritual three years later, the only thing that made it any easier was that I had packed my purse with tissues in advance.
By the time the first “oooooo-ooo” of this song hits my ear drums, all I can see is how fast my children have grown up, flying like butterflies into middle school and high school and beyond. It sends me into paroxysms of grief.
Although, let’s be honest. Once they leave the nest for good, it’ll be nice to be able to weep in peace without fear of them catching me and saying, “MOM! Are you seriously crying again?”
Here’s another song that makes me cry this time of year, but not for the reasons you may think. I’m over at NickMom this week, talking about the results of overexposure to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”