When I hear the Beatles song "Yellow Submarine" my mind goes back to the Christmas of 1964. Not exactly a holiday song by any stretch of the imagination, but thanks to my sister, Libby, that Beatles anthem will forever be tied to Christmas Eve.
Our parents owned an eatery by the name of The Bankhead Cafe in the little town of Lonoke, Arkansas (hereinafter referred to as LA). Back in the day, patrons included local judges, attorneys, the town plumber, the local police, relatives, friends, passers through on their way here and yon, and the occasional musical folks including, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and....wait for it...Elvis Presley and his crew. (I never saw Elvis, but Daddy told me the day Elvis died that he had come in on his way back home from Little Rock to Memphis several times.)
I'm certain that Libby, who was the waitress the day "Willie and Waylon and the boys" blessed us with their presence, would rather have been serving the Beatles. (And by the way...Willie had a normal haircut...no braids.)
But I digress...
When I was little, Christmas Eve was generally a long, restless day. It always seemed to drag on and on. Momma and Daddy worked all day and into the night at the cafe. In those days, there was no cable TV. We had the three major networks and PBS. And you'd think since Christmas Eve was such a special day there would be Christmas movies and whatnot, but generally no...at least until midnight mass. And since we weren't Catholic, that was a no-no. So there you have it.
That year we had this six-foot aluminum tree with blue ornaments. I never liked that tree. If I stretched my memory I can remember having several real trees. I can recall a regular green one, a blue flocked one, a pink one and a tabletop one that sat on the dining room table. Then my folks fell in love with aluminum. Can anyone commiserate with me on how awful those things were?
This particular Christmas Eve, I think Libby and one of her girlfriends were just as bored as I. We loaded into the car and went to look at Christmas lights just after darkness stole over the town. And in Lonoke, whose population sign at the edge of town boasted a whopping 2358 souls in the sixties, looking at Christmas lights took less than thirty minutes (at least for us). When we hit LA's main drag (every little town has one), Yellow Submarine came on the radio and the two teens in the front seat began to sing it with gusto. "We all lived in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine...". I wondered what in the world it had to do with Christmas or Santa or Jesus. Was Santa arriving in a submarine that year? Did he move his residence to the bottom of the sea? Were the Beatles in his elf pack? Let's face it...Ringo was a little elf-like. A true bag of goodies, in his own right.
The remainder of the night, as I stared in wonder at the aluminum tree and the prismatic relfections it made on the walls and ceiling, I hummed that iconic Beatles' tune. Just remember....I was about seven. I should have been humming "Here Comes Santa Claus". (Willie Nelson sang that on his hymns album or something.)
So when you're caroling this year, or humming your favorite holiday tune, please be mindful not to forget the one and only "Yellow Submarine". Imagine, if you will, Santa in a bright yellow furry suit as he floats away, saying, "And to all a good night".