Ornament / Old City Bar / This Christmas Day
I’m going to cheat a bit with my eighth selection and list a trio of songs. This “mini-suite” appears on the second half of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first Christmas CD Christmas Eve & Other Stories (1996). They strike a chord with me for several reasons: the smoky “Tom Waits meets Joe Cocker singing Bruce Springsteen after a few shots of whiskey” vocals; the rock opera-esque arrangement; and the story. I love a good story as many of you know and this is one that strikes me to my core. While true that I love my sons and my little girl is not yet four, there is just something uniquely special about the father-daughter relationship. And these songs paint just such a story.
In “Ornament” we find a father bemoaning his daughter’s absence at Christmas. She is out there all alone but to him she still “glistens”, as daughters are want to do to their daddies no matter their age. Heated words were apparently exchanged long ago and she is now gone at Christmas in parts of the world unknown and all he wants is for her to be safe at home. And so this is his Christmas Prayer for his “ornament lost inside the night.”
For the next song we switch from the home of the father to the mean streets of a city and an “Old City Bar”. In my mind I can see a cold, snowy night and the neon sign of the bar where inside the smoky windows the hunched over bentbacks sit astride the bar. It’s Christmas Eve and here are those with broken homes or no homes at all, these “tough customers.” Into the midst of this dreary scene steps something most unexpected, a small child, pointing out to the unfeeling, indifferent men a girl lost in the snow with no money…no way to get home. The bartender tries to get out of helping her by asking why he should care. The child responds simply that on this night of all nights “if one could be home they’d be already there.” I won’t reveal anything more and allow you to discover for yourself what unfolds next. I’m a sucker for these types of stories so it’s only natural I suppose that this one resonates with me.
After two bleak story landscapes we return to the father’s home. His prayer has been answered. All is forgiven. His daughter is on her way home to him for “This Christmas Day”. At once we see the joy of the father expressed as the prodigal is returning home. We also witness an almost Scrooge-like transformation for him. And lest we forget, the changes made to the bartender and his patrons who saw that they did still matter and that even the so-called lost of the world are capable of making a positive difference. The world “doesn’t seem the same and in a single night…it all has changed. And everything is now as it should be.” And so while she journeys back home to her father he is busy preparing for her welcome, decorating the tree, and saying his thanks for his answered prayer. The joy in his voice as he sings out loud melts the hardest heart.
For of all the dreams
You were the first I knew
And every other one
Was a charade of you
You stayed close when I was far away
In the darkest night
You always were the star
You always took us in
No matter who we are
And so she’s coming home this
It’s not too late. Not if you’re a parent praying for a child’s return and for forgiveness. Not if you’re feeling small and insignificant and dragged down with thoughts that nothing you could do will make a difference for anyone. And not if you are the child…lost…and wanting desperately to come home. It’s never too late.