The snow hasn’t come
But that doesn’t mean it won't be a warm Christmas
Like the best cards show
Best movies and childhood memories
That cut through time
Like Rudolf’s nose through a winter storm
Though the legend says it’s bright
It can’t out-shine
My Grandma’s house come Christmas time.
Once a night time drive
I was guided by dancing candy lights
Then midnight came to town
Took the lights away and in exchange left a
But it couldn’t take the place
Of the brilliant warmth of God
And my Grandma’s house that Christmas
I use to think that love was a teddy bear to hug
But a dear friend taught me once love’s like a diamond in the rough
And the stars above the sky held up high by invisible space
What faith it must take to shine in such a dark place.
And their light lives on
Even after they're gone
Like my Grandma's house after Christmas
This whimsical little video was set under the bright stars of Protection KS one quiet Christmas night. The characters were inspired by locals and a little act of kindness. Speaking of kindness...This project was made possible by numerous sponsoring Protection KS businesses.
It's enough to make anyone crazy, a Christmas song stuck in one's head since early spring, and here it is almost December. But, I've enjoyed every minute of it. Out of all the songs and genres I’ve dabbled in - singer/songwriter, pop, punk, country, alternative, and even metal, (though short-lived) I feel I've finally found my voice in a simple Christmas song.
I originally planned on writing and recording the song myself as a gift for family. But then, an animated music video was persistent on being born. All sorts of little characters and drawings started flooding my head, to the point of severe distraction. Because of this, normal daily tasks took a back seat; like wearing matching shoes, or noticing that tags on my shirts should go in the back. Also, the brown steamy liquid that frequently rolled down my windshield was not the doing of some large, sick, bird. It was instead a newly purchased 'forgotten' cup of coffee. This also happened with a large pizza, a lime, and I'm sure many more items that I don’t even remember. It's part of the reason I'm said to be too thin, and the critters on my street are too fat. To cure this level of distraction, I had to do the work that was begging to be done. So, I agreed to bring an animated music video to life.
I had a couple time consuming plans to put my illustrations in motion, but lacked the tools, so I called an animator. I really didn't think I could afford him, but I was willing to find a way. I told him I was far from having a 'Disney size budget' to work with. After some discussion, we decided on a simple stylistic 'pop-up book' theme. In hindsight, it was a good choice, as I feel it works best for this song anyway. I told him to go for it.
Besides working 1 1/2 jobs already, I needed to kick it up a notch. So, I painted a few houses. In addition to painting houses, I learned a variety of lessons: How to use a caulking gun properly, that sitting on a thick sheet of foam, when on a roof, keeps you safe from slipping. If you would like more holes in your jeans, just wear em' on a roof for a couple of hours. Also, if you are painting a white house you might consider wearing two pairs of sunglasses. But remember, take them off before walking into the local café or you just might walk into the waitress. Oh, and wasp stings hurt just as bad as they did when I was a kid. The only difference is how I express it now (my apologies to Mr. James and his daughter).
The weather grew cold and the painting jobs came to a stop. I only lacked a few hundred dollars to get this project off the ground. So, I turned to the place where entrepreneurship, hard work, and a sense of community, mixed perfectly with a strong dose of independence, Protection KS. I'm not just saying this because it's my hometown and numerous business owners agreed to sponsor this video; I'm saying this because it's true. The late Sheriff of Comanche County (Dave Timmons) once told me he could never quite put his finger on it, but "Protection was just different" , and agreeably so. Once I got past the typical identity associated with all small towns, I realized each town does have originality and subtle character to it. There is more to a town than its surface demeanor; just like with people. That seemed to be the lesson that reared its head during the recording of my Christmas song.
I decided my recording skills wouldn’t cut it. So I called the one engineer I’m most comfortable working with. Much to my dismay, he wasn't available! I panicked. The only other person I trusted to do a good job on the recording was the one person I swore I would never, EVER work with (due mostly to clashing associations and opposite taste in music). The feeling was always mutual, as we would frequently ignore one another whenever life somehow 'trapped' us in the same room.
I picked up the phone about twenty times in attempt to call her, but hung up before I hit the last number. It seemed every time I hesitated, the 'soon to be' Christmas song grew louder… like a nagging child. The anxiety pushed me to a point of reason. "This is a Christmas song and if I can’t put my pride aside, then I have no business even recording this song." So, with that short 'pep-talk', I held my breath, and called her. In a monotone fashion, we quickly exchanged the information needed, set a date, and agreed to meet at her home.
"I'm going to be as professional as possible and I'm not going to let pride get the best of me." I said to myself (while I quickly drove past her home in attempt to hide my dusty, dated, car from being peered at through her gargantuan window). Of course, SHE lived in the most beautiful, extravagant, original 'Spanish style' home in a perfect little neighborhood!
I cautiously walked along the aesthetically pleasing sidewalk. It had the most beautiful fall leaves scattered across it. I feared that if I stepped on one, Martha Stewart would somehow find out and tell her fans what a horrible person I was. I didn't want to see what was behind that huge wooden door at the end of the sidewalk, but I knocked anyway. She (the revered recording engineer) opened the door. It was an awkward moment, so I decided to stare at the floor. It was a marble floor, and it seemed to point at the hole in my shoe.
My paranoia aside, she sure seemed overly eager to give me a tour. She also informed me how they had just downgraded from their last home because it was... "just too big and fancy". She then introduced me to the cutest puppy in the world whose outfit looked better than mine. Have you ever been jealous of a dog? It’s the worst feeling in the world. But, that feeling was shaken by the mesmerizing scent coming from the kitchen. It smelled like a heavenly home cooked feast and…defeat. She obviously was a better cook than me too.
I never felt so challenged, inspired, respectful, and uncertain about a person like I did right then. Plus, the nerves of soon having to sing a song most dear to me in front of her, weighed heavily on my burdened heart. I struggled to contain all emotion. "A person like her could never understand my fragile nature and could possibly rip my song apart" I thought. I needed a distraction. My worried eyes skimmed the room for a conversation piece. I spotted a picture of a young teenage girl..."who is she" I asked. "That's my daughter, isn't she beautiful?" I nodded my head in agreement as she continued "She passed away from cancer a while back... she was a fighter…"
At that point, I had forgotten why I was even there. Any attempt to contain emotion was gone. I finally saw this woman as human being who understood fragility more than myself; not some superficial 'conquistador'. She saw tears pool at the corners of my eyes, she saw that I cared, and she saw me try to hide it. There was no turning back to a shallow/professional relationship after tears wear involved. I felt completely vulnerable, defeated and relieved. Most of all, at that moment, I knew what I thought I knew about her was wrong. Making that the moment where we started over.
However, I didn't leave without making her cry too...The song we recorded that night struck a huge emotional chord with her. Needless to say, we are both big cry babies and great friends now. Which I suspect, has benefited me more than her, because she constantly sends her divine home cooked meals home with me every chance she gets. I also make a point (which isn't hard to do) to not leave any of her gifts of food on top of my car before driving away.