I just had a horrible Christmas flashback.
Last year, my husband uploaded/downloaded all our Christmas CDs to our computer in our home office so he can play them in the family room via the Squeezebox. Last year, we listened to a lot of the Blind Boys of Alabama and Chanticleer, which are excellent as well as completely different. I never liked that repetitive “pa rum pa pum pum” song until I heard the Blind Boys’ rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy,” and now I can’t get enough of it.
Anyway, David must have added some more CDs to the holiday repertoire this year and didn’t warn me about it beforehand. Because there I was, innocently living in my own house, where I thought I was safe from Bad Christmas Music, when I heard them. The opening notes of “Marshmallow World” boomed through my living room. Oh. No.
Never heard that song before? Go here. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. I think our version may be the Bing Crosby version. I used to love Bing Crosby, too. A friend gave the “White Christmas” album to me my freshman year of college, and I’ve loved “Mele Kalikimaka” and all the others ever since. But upon hearing “Marshmallow World”, all I can say is, wow, Bing, what did we do to deserve this? But then again, our version might be the Dean Martin version. Actually, it’s probably the Frank Sinatra version, now that I really think about my husband’s musical preferences. I clamped my hands over my ears almost as soon as the lyrics started, so I’m not entirely certain who sang it.
But it really doesn’t matter. It’s just my post-traumatic stress disorder from working retail during the Christmas holidays during college kicking in. Specifically 1995, the year of the “Marshmallow World” Christmas retail soundtrack.
You see, like many college students with a bundle of student loans, I always worked long hours during my vacations to make enough money to pay for my books and other supplies for school. I put in time at places like Books-A-Million, Victoria’s Secret and Talbots, among others. Every store had its own Christmas soundtrack that played on an endless loop and tortured employees like me for the length of their shifts. Typically, the soundtrack was only about an hour long, so during an eight-hour shift, I heard the same rotation of songs eight times. I don’t even play songs that I like eight times per day.
In 1995, I worked for a women’s clothing and accessory store during my winter break from college. The upsides of that job were the pay, which was pretty good for retail, and the dress code, which did not require employees to wear clothing purchased from the store. I also had a very nice manager that year. The downsides, however, were working at the most frenzied time of year and being forced to listen to the music piped into the store to inspire good will and big spending in our shoppers.
The hour-long rotation featured “Marshmallow World” and another winner, that horrible version of “Jingle Bells” that includes squeaky-voiced girls squealing “I like to sleigh ride! I like to sleigh ride!” in between every line. Relentlessly upbeat, catchy songs that penetrated the most obscure corners of the brain. Eight hours of that. Every day. While standing up, smiling and folding an endless supply of unfolded sweaters. While worrying about making enough money to pay for the shockingly overpriced used Pysch 102 textbook. While remaining cordial while dealing with entitled customers who clearly believed that manners were a quaint, outdated and useless social custom. While worrying about post-college job prospects. While wondering if another 400 mg of ibuprofen might make a dent in that killer headache. And did I mention the smiling? The constant smiling despite the fact that the central heating was blowing at full gale and drying your lips, thus making them stick to your teeth in a terrible grimace?
I get a twitch in my right eye, just thinking about it. I’ll happily sit and listen to a really beautiful religious Christmas song like “O Come All Ye Faithful” or “Silent Night” sung by just about anyone. Or even a secular song like “Silver Bells.” (Or just about any Christmas song sung by Bing Crosby.) But please, for the love of all that is good and right, not “Marshmallow World.” Dear God, please not “Marshmallow World.”
Or “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”