If you’ve been reading my blog posts you already know that the idea for Broadsides & Brews is a culmination of beloved experiences, but none was more integral than Christmas in NYC. Much like the movie “A Christmas Story” I fondly reminisce about the crowds gathered in front of the famed windows of Macy’s Herald Square and Sacks Fifth Avenue. The excitement of experiencing FAO Schwarz with living toy soldiers who greeted you at the door, the singing clock welcoming you “to our world” and a jungle of stuffed animals as far as the eye could see. The independent bookstore that always felt like going home, the place where I would pick my early Christmas present as a remembrance of our magical day. But nothing stayed with me more than the music. Those songs that, without fail, bring a smile to your face and warm your heart.
One of my favorite Christmas tunes has always been “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas.” I don’t know why it resonated so strongly with me, maybe because my household already included snakes, lizards, turtles, dogs, owls, a parrot….would a hippo really be that strange? One Christmas we were visiting Santa at Macy’s and I asked for an orangutan (a giant stuffed animal Macy’s had on display that year) and my younger brother asked for a green anaconda (yes, a real snake) and Santa pushed us off his lap and asked if we were the Addams Family! Maybe it was the lyrical story telling:
“He [Santa] won't have to use our dirty chimney flue Just bring him through the front door That's the easy thing to do”
After all, we didn’t have a fireplace so I could just imagine Santa leading the hippo on a leash through our front door. Or maybe it was just my love for all creatures, big or small….but especially BIG!
I did a little research on the song and it turns out that the young girl, Gayla Peevey, who recorded the song at the age of ten, lived in Oklahoma City. The City launched a fundraiser to get Gayla her hippopotamus for Christmas. The fundraiser was a success and Gayla received Matilda, her very own hippo, which she donated to the Oklahoma City Zoo. The story doesn’t end there though, turns out I have a one degree of separation from Gayla, through Matilda! When I was growing-up we would spend part of our summer vacation on the road, driving cross-county to photograph trains, attend classic cars shows and visit zoos. One summer we visited the Oklahoma City Zoo. I remember feeding the sea lions a cup of sardines and meeting the hippos. Yup, I met Matilda, the original hippopotamus for Christmas!
Although I have received some hippos for Christmas (an ornament, yard décor, etc.) I don’t think a Matilda of my own will ever be under the tree, however, there is another animal I have always wanted, a Newfoundland. Though not quite as big as a hippo, a newfie is a giant in the dog world. Having a fluffy, affectionate sidekick has always been my “hippopotamus for Christmas” wish. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce the official mascot of Broadsides & Brews, Satchmo, the Newf.
2020 has been a difficult year to say the least but don’t ever stop believing in the magic, the magic of music, experiences and Christmas!
Happiest of holidays from all of us to all of you!