I really felt like I needed to touch on this major holiday that is nearly upon us. I have, after all, spent the past few weeks frantically scrubbing, cleaning, dusting, baking, and going to the poor house buying food for said holiday.
The one Christmas carol that really makes me smile every time I hear it is “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” I even have a little ornament with Santa toting his sack with a hippo in it (and it plays music!). I’ve been giving some serious thought to why I love this song.
If you listen closely, you can hear that this is no ordinary child asking for a hippo. This child is not making a capricious decision; she has thought it through. It’s the sort of planning and obsession, mixed with optimism that reminds me of me. I’m not entirely sure if I’ve just complimented or insulted myself.
She considers transportation, “I don’t think Santa Claus will mind, do you?/ He won’t have to use our dirty chimney flue/ Just bring him through the front door,/ That’s the easiest thing to do.” What Santa wouldn’t like for kids to think of his ease when asking for presents? For that matter, it shows that she understands what she’s asking for.
This little girl has been doing her research. Even though her mom tells her that the hippo would eat her up (It’s a clever mom ploy to discourage kids. Remember, “You’ll shoot your eye out”?), she knows that the hippo is a vegetarian. She plans for its care: “There’s lots of room for him in our two-car garage/ I’d feed him there and wash him there and give him his massage.” I especially like the part about the massage. I’d really like it if someone would plan on giving me massages on a regular basis. And what kid thinks of these things?
As I was writing this, I found out that Gayla Peevey recorded this song when she was nine years old. Now the voice and the joy captured in the song make so much more sense—especially when she sings about creeping down the stairs on Christmas morning. It sounds exactly like you feel when you’re nine and you imagine Christmas morning. It’s how I hope H sounds in a few years when she talks about Christmas.
That excitement is really what gets me about the song. It takes me back, man. Even now, I have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve because I’m so excited.
So, may all of your mornings, wherever you are, be filled with anticipation. “Oh what joy and what surprise/ when I open up my eyes/ to see a hippo hero standing there.” Here’s to hippo heroes everywhere.