Today author Louise Millar brings us comfort and joy by sharing precious memories of Elvis’ crooning tunes as the soundtrack to her family Christmases past and present. Warning: a festive tear may well be brought to your eye…
Elvis Presley runs a fine thread through my family story. I don’t remember a time, as a child, when his music wasn’t playing in our car, on the way to the shops, or on holiday, or home to Glasgow at Christmas, the four of us singing along to Wooden Heart, making up the German lines: ‘Moosy den, moosy den…’
In our own house at Christmas, Elvis’ comforting croon was accompanied by the smell of smoke from the fire and my father’s cigar, laughter rising, as family and friends arrived. My dad and uncles’ competitive story-telling starting up at lunch, becoming sillier and funnier, the day ending with dancing in the sitting-room, and a late-night singalong.
But Elvis was not just for Christmas in our family. He had famously instilled an exuberant new spirit in my parents’ post-war 1950s generation. They just loved him. In the 1970s, on a business trip to California, they decided, after a party, to peek over the wall of his mansion, my mum teetering on my dad’s shoulders. Was the shadowy figure who emerged to chase them away a security guard or, in fact, Elvis? As kids, we decided Elvis, of course.
Their love of him transferred to me. Decades later, I would drive across Mississippi interviewing people whose lives had been changed by their state’s famous son. The highlight was meeting Reverend Frank Smith, who’d taught young Elvis his first guitar chords. That story became my first published newspaper article, and the start of my journey as a professional writer.
Today, Elvis still says ‘home’ to me. I still play his music at Christmas. And when I do, I think fondly of my father, cigar and brandy in hand, mischievous smile as he told another silly story, never happier, I now realise, than with all of us on Christmas Day.
Louise was also a journalist and senior editor for Marie Claire and her travel writing has featured in The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Observer.
Alongside her writing, Louise is a founding member of two writing groups, and co-founder of Killer Women, a professional collective of twenty-one female crime authors created to amplify and support women’s voices in crime writing. She is co-founder of the annual Killer Women crime writing festival in London, and publisher of the multi-award-nominated Killer Women anthology.