Oak Recommends: “Hope is Alive” by Ellie Holcomb

My Sisters & I – Photo by Lisa Ayling.

The Christmas season has begun, thusly I find myself writing to you all about my favourite Christmas song…

I don’t often include my personal stories when I make my recommendations here at Memoir Mixtapes, as often-times I am simply much too excited about the Artist whom I am introducing; their talent, passion, endurance and hardwork. Though it would seem that on this occassion, however, I am offering a little more of myself.

As a child I had a ‘Christmas heart’; it was my most favourite celebration; winter would set in, my mother would begin dressing me in snowsuits, fires would be lit in our provincial cottage and night time would arrive much more appropriately when I was sent to bed. I was, and naturally still am, in love with the season, whose very presence was enough to remind every living person I encountered during my early years of life, that there was a great abundance of hope, and of joy, and of caring, which outshone any darkness which may prowl through our days.

So besotted with Christmas was I, that I readily trotted out a child-size faux Christmas tree roughly once a month and dressed it in fine ornaments and trinkets; angels and lights, and at it’s feet I would stand my wooden doll’s crib, with a nominated baby doll lain soft inside taking up the role of the infant king Jesus.

As a five year old I would kneel before this splendid display and admire it, sing what words I knew of Christmas carols and decide with all certainty to leave it there for the rest of the year. Until, as would happen routinely after about four days, my mother would either encourage me to put it away or would do so herself.

It was many years after this beautiful period of my life before I would remember this again. I don’t know quite why such an innocent, snowglobe sort of memory might have been misplaced as I grew up. But, upon hearing a sweet woman by the name of Ellie Holcomb sing a new Christmas song a few years ago, the memory came fluttering back, with all the softness and quietness with which it had disappeared.

I was a child again, I was basking in the stary light of hope once more, I remembered my nativity, which I had set up without knowing how; we were not a church-going family, nor had we ever owned a traditional nativity scene, but I knew the story, it had been one of the first I had learned to read by myself. And never once did my faux fir ever stand barren of that little rocking cradle.

I didn’t become a believer until more than a decade had passed me by, until after a great multitude of troubles had befallen the girl I had been. And now, just as many years and troubles had passed again and I was watching Ellie’s golden face, her contageous joy filling the air with a song which was carefully, inexplicably marrying up the many versions of myself there had been along the way; singing ‘into our aching, into our breaking, into our longing to be made whole, your arms are reaching, your love is holding us close…’ untill all of the years concertinaed gently back to the little girl playing Christmas in June.

This song encapsulates the spirit of Christmas & expresses much more than most of my Christmas favourites, and not-so-favourites; it isn’t a pretty bow or sweet frosting, making the assumption that we the listeners are doubled over with bliss; that our families are carolling around the christmas tree in our perfect cookie-cutter gingerbread houses, that all our loved ones love us back and never disappoint us or break our hearts, that Christmas isn’t actually the peak suicide season. It is a song looking with loving eyes at the human heart and reminding us, that nevertheless, there is great light and hope. So much hope.

Please, take a moment with this song, I hope it blesses your heart. Merry Christmas to you my friends.

(Song recommendation by Oak Ayling)

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