Unsung Christmas Song

Leave it to legend Roy Orbison to shatter the festive mood of the holiday season.

John Hercock/Central Press/Getty Images

While listening to the “Holiday Favorites” station on Amazon Music, I heard Orbison’s “Pretty Paper” sandwiched somewhere between “Jingle Bell Rock” and Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

The song packs a narrative punch in just two minutes and forty-five seconds, as it tells the story of a lonely man on a sidewalk ignored by Christmas shoppers. Sadness prevails in the lyrics and the vulnerability expressed in Orbison’s voice and in the backup vocals draws us into the story, putting the listener on the busy street with the other passersby. I asked myself: Would I pay stop and say “hello” to the man? Would I even bother to notice him?

It’s also worth mentioning that Orbison did not write the lyrics. According to Wikipedia, Willie Nelson wrote “Pretty Paper” in 1963.

Photo by Jeffery Washington, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The line that devastates me is, “And in the midst of the laughter he cries …”

The full lyrics follow. And I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Pretty Paper
Willie Nelson

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Crowded street, busy feet, hustle by him
Downtown shoppers, Christmas is nigh
There he sits all alone on the sidewalk
Hoping that you won’t pass him by
Should you stop? Better not, much too busy
You’re in a hurry, my how time does fly
In the distance the ringing of laughter
And in the midst of the laughter he cries
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue.

Songwriters: Willie Nelson
Pretty Paper lyrics © Roy Orbison Music Company, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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little tree: a poem

While doing some internet research, I came across a Christmas-themed poem by the brilliant E.E. Cummings.

In the spirit of giving, I thought I would share it so others can derive joy from Cummings’ simple, heartfelt words.

[little tree]

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold.
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”

The poem inspired an illustrated children’s book, which I found for sale on Amazon.

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An Unexpected Kindness: Parking Garage Christmas Spirit

I received a surprise Monday morning when pulling into the University Avenue Garage at Syracuse University.

University Avenue Garage, Harrison Street Entrance.

University Avenue Garage, Harrison Street Entrance.

I drove in on the Harrison Street side, and after I swiped my card and the arm lever raised, the female parking lot attendant came over to my car and handed me an envelope. After I parked my Focus I opened the envelope and pulled out a Christmas card.

The front of the card had an image of Santa’s sleigh loaded with a small Christmas tree and blue and green-colored wrapped presents.

Dawn's Christmas Card.

Dawn’s Christmas Card.

The greeting inside read:

“Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year.”

Underneath the greeting the attendant had scribbled a note that read “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Dawn … Parking @ Uag.”

Christmas Card Greeting.

Christmas Card Greeting.

The kind gesture brightened my day. I thought Dawn’s action embodied the Christmas spirit, as she offered me, a passing acquaintance (a stranger really), a gift without expecting anything in return.

I looked up Dawn’s name in the university directory and emailed her later in the day, thanking her for the card. She wrote back that the cards are her “Christmas smiles” and she hands out over 300 of them. She added, “Magic happens when you make someone else smile.”

I agree with that sentiment, and she inspired me to reciprocate the favor. On my way home from work last night I dropped off a Christmas card for Dawn at her UAG booth. She wasn’t working at the time, but I hope she’ll smile when she opens the envelope and feel the same warmth she instilled in me. And I will try to live up to the example of her generosity for the rest of the holiday season.

University Avenue Garage, Adams Street Entrance.

University Avenue Garage, Adams Street Entrance.

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