This isn’t, as far as I can see, a Christmas carol of any kind, but I will always associate it with the holiday for its spot on the Muppets Christmas album, and as part of Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas.
This is a song I associate with my father, who would drive us to the Sierra every year on the first Saturday in December, and we would listen to Christmas music the whole drive up, and then we’d go get a Christmas tree, usually at Little Bear Christmas Tree Farm, just outside of Alta, California.
The memory I have of this song is him singing this quietly to himself as we turned off from Interstate 80. It’s the last song on the first side of the cassette, so there was always a little pause at the end before the end of the tape would be reached, and you’d have to flip the tape. This was back in the day, yes, before auto-switchers. We’d turn the corner, he’d pause as the tape stopped, a mental pause of his own. The the tape would get flipped and Little St. Nick, sung by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem would come on.
When I was but a babe in arms, my older sister Louisa was in an accident in our backyard, and she drowned. She spent many months in the hospital on life support, but she passed. It’s been 30+ years since that happened, but from a very early age, I connected this song to her.
There was no sense in her loss, and its consequences to our family have rippled forth even to now. But in this song, I find comfort, as I know my parents do, but it is also reminder of what is absent. And living now some 2700 miles east of my parents, it reminds me of the gap between me and them during the holidays.
It seems an odd sentiment at Christmas, but you can’t argue with Jim Henson, he knew people so well… You just can’t argue with that.
But this life will find a purpose
And in time we’ll understand
When the river meets the sea
When the river meets the almighty sea