We’ll Have to Muddle Through Somehow

Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to Margaret O'Brien in "Meet Me in St. Louis"

By Al Perrotta Published on December 9, 2020

The plan all year had been push through work, a book project and the election, then have a complete break for two weeks around Thanksgiving. Things did not work out that way. A cancer diagnosis for my father-in-law upended our travel plans. It put us on the long road to Jersey for doctors’ visits, then my wife driving him to Florida for treatment, while I drove to Maryland and wrote about the election debacle. Finally, we met up and drove to the Outer Banks for a couple days break for a family Thanksgiving.

Then on Thanksgiving Eve, our beloved toy poodle Dapper suddenly, shockingly died.

I’ll forever be haunted by that race off of OBX, two-and-a-half hours in the dead of night, in pitch darkness, to the nearest open animal emergency center in Chesapeake, Virginia. Dapper knew something was dreadfully wrong, and kept trying to fight the seizures. He also was trying to comfort his mommy. COVID fears kept us in the car while the vet’s assistant took Dapper away. The call came seconds later that there was nothing that could be done. Rusty screamed, “You have to let me be with my baby!” Those final, peaceful moments with Dapper, the sweetest, most gentle, most accepting, most loving creature on the planet.

And then that ride two-and-a-half hours back through the night, back onto the Outer Banks, farther and farther from the mainland out into the dark, consuming ocean. Drowning in emotional waves. We were in a nightmare. “This isn’t real. This isn’t real,” we kept saying.

The thought of being around people was too much to bear, so after a few hours of sleep, we drove back north to Maryland and my sister’s.

After a week trying to recoup from our grief and month of stress and strain, we drove back here to Texas.

The Sounds of Christmas

It doesn’t take a spinning odometer to know that we racked up hours and hours and hours on the road, during the day and in the deepest night. As political and news junkies, usually our road trips have us glued to news channels. Maybe some sports when Rusty’s sleeping. And yeah, during the Christmas season we mix in a dash of festive Christmas music channels.

But I just had no interest in news as I was driving. No talking heads. No interest in sports. And holiday cheer was the furthest thing from my mind. Even Christian music held little appeal, at least until the final portion of our drive to Texas.

Instead, I kept finding myself tuning into XM channel 73, which was playing traditional holiday classics. The old school stuff. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dino, Rosemary Clooney, Percy Faith, the Prince of Christmas Andy Williams. And the incomparable Judy Garland.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Now, we’ve all heard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” a thousand times by a hundred different artists. It’s a standard. We’ve sung along, crooning the lyrics without much thought to them.

Yet, this time, Judy Garland’s original — from the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis — hit me in my breaking heart. Her soaring voice that knew sorrow and pain and depth of feeling matched perhaps only by the Psalmist, reached deep into my chest to implant a word not just for me, but for everyone dragging their way through 2020.

“We’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

Through death and disease and COVID and corruption, we’ll have to muddle through somehow. We will see better days, but “until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”


The Perfect Song for 2020

Oddly enough, the Boston Globe just yesterday labeled Judy’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” “The perfect song for Christmas 2020.” See, the lyrics to the song got changed a few years after the movie. Frank Sinatra wanted a more “jolly” version. And what the Chairman of the Board wanted, the Chairman got. Most versions since go with the more upbeat lyrics. You know … “hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

Only thing hanging in Garland’s version is her head, as she tries to comfort her little sister before they leave their family home, and Judy is forced to leave behind her love. Judy’s version is about making the best of a bad hand. Fighting through tears to have a merry little Christmas.

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As the Globe notes, the song was released in World War II, with the pain of separation and loss very real in the lives of Americans. But it is also soooooo 2020.

2020 is no dashing through the snow on a one-horse open sleigh. It is muddling through snowdrifts and ice storms and frigid gale-force winds.

Or, muddling through through arid Judea, nine months pregnant, going into labor, with no place to stay. Yes, Mary knows about muddling through.

Jesus is Our “Somehow”

Which gets to my point. And our hope. Our “somehow” is a someone. Jesus is our comfort, the one who carries us forward. The real “shining star.” I don’t know how we muddle through, but I know who will get us through.

He “takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10.) “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” (Isaiah 40:11) “I have made you. I will carry you. I will sustain you. I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:4)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

We get through this. He makes sure of it.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas. And God willing, “next year all our troubles will be out of sight.”


Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream and co-author, with @JZmirak, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. You can follow him at @StreamingAl. And if you aren’t already, please follow The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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