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Shortest Day of the Year

by Jill Macchiaverna, songwriter?!

cover art for 'Shortest Day of the Year' holiday single by Paul and Alice Dake

How do you know when the holiday season is here? If it’s when you start hearing the music, I have a new one for you (scroll to the end of this post to hear it).

The first cool wind of autumn breathes a new attitude into humans. I’m not sure why, but something about the chill reminds us to hold our loved ones closer. Something about the longer nights make us appreciate the sun returning, again and again. Right up until January 1, when we switch our focus back onto ourselves, replete with resolutions fueled by self loathing built up over the past 365 days. Such a brief few weeks when it’s culturally acceptable across many religions and continents to remember to love. Love, love, love, like the sun will never come up again.

One of the corniest traditions I like to do are holiday letters. I don’t always have good cheer every year, but when I do, I send the letter to family, extended family, great friends, wish-we-were-great friends, and even sometimes just acquaintances that I truly admire. (It probably makes the acquaintances pretty uncomfortable to read things like, “...We lost Dad this year…” and “...I’ve been really depressed from quitting my job…” from someone they hardly know, but they can get over it. It’s Christmas!)

When I’m not teaching, I find myself returning to cynicism like a tether ball to the pole. So when one year, one of my cousins mentioned how she had told a coworker that about 20 of her closest relatives were coming in for Christmas and that ‘yes! it was a good thing because everyone likes each other!’ I realized how true it was. Those days are idyllic. Board games, card games, crafts, movies, feasts, novelty drinks, grandbabies that entertain each other, adults who listen more than they talk and have great advice and kind senses of humor. It made my heart so full to reflect on those days, and how they are always gone too soon, and how the babies would all be a year older before we got together again, and one day they could be too old or too cool to just love, love, love. I wrote a poem and showed it to a different cousin while we were there. I said I could hear it as a song. She said “you should do it” and I got home and figured out GarageBand just enough to create something that didn’t (completely) embarrass me to share with the family.

Fast forward several years later to this summer. No one was travelling, so I was invited to a virtual family reunion. I had never made it to any of the real family reunions as far as I could remember, so I was excited to meet some of my extended-extended family. One of them happened to be a musician, Paul Dake. He was delightful to meet, and after the chat I listened to some of his work. I mustered up all my courage and emailed him the song, telling him I knew it was unfinished and I thought it had more potential. I never could have expected what a diamond he would find in that first rough cut. It makes me fall in love with my family, extended families, and extended-extended families all over again. (You can even dance to it. My husband and I tested it out in the kitchen.)

Some holiday seasons are not happy times. This has the potential to be one of those years. I hope you can still find good cheer in 2020. Better years will return. I hope Shortest Day of the Year plays heavily in your holiday music rotation and lightly in your heart.

Here's a preview of the song:

Shortest Day of the Year was written by Jill Macchiaverna © 2020


Jim Spause on Bass, Tambourine & Triangle

Bud Burroughs on Accordion & Mandolin

Jim Tracey Bethke on Drums

Paul Dake - Musician on Vocals & Acoustic Guitar

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