Nicole Asensio Hopes To "See You This Christmas"

 

The rhythms of each passing day have lulled, pushed, pulled and shaken us each into our new (I won’t say normal) courses. Over months, we have taken to new realisations and revelations of the soul. Some who had never touched a wooden spoon before have now become masters of the oven. Some have noticed that office hours have multiplied as work extended far past cubicle confines. Blazers paired with boxers have become a fashion statement, Some slept and slept and slept cashing in on years of sleepless nights from once working tirelessly. Some, a brave few, our front-liners have stayed on, fighting for us. After all, it was like we were in a backwards war, where the enemy was invisible and constantly around us and the only way to care for those we loved was to keep our distance and wear masks that hid our smiles from them.

I couldn’t help thinking— But what of those who have gone all these long months without holding the ones they loved? What of those who have gone many nights expressing their innermost desires and intimate moments through lenses and screens? What of those who had to bid a loved one farewell through an I-pad? What of wearing a mask under a shield, inside a car? —bubbles within bubbles removed from the life we knew? What of those who lost everything they once owned and were left with how’s and why’s? What about those of us who sat here waiting this whole time for someone to return and bring back a sense of the holiday spirit we were used to somehow?

I snapped out of it. “pull it back, Nicole, there is much to be grateful for… tragedies happen every year, don’t they?” But somehow this year was different for so many of us, because because it happened to so many of us, in so many different ways.

As I sat amidst a pile of pinecones and long tangled webs of half-working Christmas lights… I realised I was well into November 2020 and scratching my head while wondering why I was putting up a tree when it was more than obvious that I wasn’t feeling very festive.

I looked at the mess around me and thought: “I think I’ll stop for now, maybe try decorating again tomorrow.” It was time to wash off the stray glitter and dust from the piles of Christmas decor.

It was in the shower when I was randomly humming at a barely audible volume. I thought of all the people and opportunities I missed dearly, maybe even places I would have traveled to by now if not for the virus.  

“It’s been a long, long year waiting, pushing our dreams aside… sitting by windows commiserating, waiting for the city lights to come alive.”

Indeed, many dreams were shelved for now. But I couldn’t help but feel like despite it all, I was exactly where I needed to be. There is, after all, a reason for everything…..“pick yourself up,” I thought. The melody continued just as the hot running water built a faint steam. 

Minus the fanfare, commercial craziness and lauded efforts we make to celebrate December…. What truly was the meaning of Christmas after all? Wasn’t it about giving HIM thanks, praise and glory for all he has done for us? And in that light, therefore, being kind to others, giving and  forgiving? 

“We’ll revel in the love of our saviour above, Goodbye Blue December, Hello, love” 

Even if we recount everything the pandemic took away from us… and were left with our hearts quiet, perhaps, we could still celebrate the true meaning of Christmas without the fanfare.

It had been only fifteen minutes that passed, and the song was done. The steam cleared from the room, I cleared away the lump in my throat, lit a candle, poured two small glasses of whiskey and tapped Ira Cruz on the shoulder. “I think I have a Christmas themed song. Would you like to help me navigate through the melody and chords?”

As soon as Ira and I had made a simple demo, I called my friend, a talented musical director and arranger, Nikko Rivera on the phone. Nikko and his wife would often have pre Christmas dinners with me, I missed them dearly and thought it would only be right to ask him to arrange my simple composition. 

This time around there were a few more limits. I was working with a very conservative out of pocket budget, no recording sessions in public spaces and so we each made use of our resources safely at home. We rounded up a collective of five savvy musicians with home set-ups to carry out my simple sultry tune. Lawrence Nolan on drums, Simon Tan on upright bass, Nikko Rivera on keys, Michael Guevarra on flute and Lester Sorilla, who after rigid protocols came over to record in my attic. The recording went smoothly and was complete in 2 days, then sent to Angee Rozul for mixing and Abbey Road Studios UK for mastering.

As much as I wanted to draw out a narrative and have the band over in the video, going big on production didn’t make sense to me at this time, and as an independent, self produced artist it also has its challenges following protocols. So, we kept it simple with The Gward Inc’s most skeletal crew and shot the music video solo in a friend’s home. At this point I was just truly grateful that friends from different corners of the industry would chime and and help. The production was intimate, generous and heartfelt, My dresses were borrowed, my makeup was done by my classmate back in college, the location was lent by a friend… and I would just smile in my quiet moments, thankful and teary eyed because the people around me just gave and gave and I had no reason not to feel the spirit of Christmas. They gave pieces of their time and talent to make this project mean something to those who could not be with their loved ones this Christmas.

“If Christmas is the season for giving love, I’d give anything to be with you.”

The shoot was over, we had four days to edit and get the materials out into the airwaves. I trudged back into the steamy shower (where I get most my ideas) tired, but fulfilled. As dawn creeped in I lit a candle and thought of my father in heaven, those friends who were also up there looking down at our crazy world, ex lovers who’d never know how much has changed in the years between us… and took a deep breath and thought. “We’re getting through… we’re doing it right…. We’re okay… by God’s grace, we’re okay…. And we’re exactly where we need to be.” 

We’re all a little broken, but strangely enough, we’re all a little stronger and hopefully, smarter too. We’re less about the decor and wrappers and more about the stuff inside, everything we’ve learned this year. After all, one way or another we have all survived something this year, we have all changed somehow, whether we choose to admit it or not. 

Moving forward into 2021, one day we might celebrate with all the fanfare again. Life might slip back into the comforts we once knew, life as we knew it… But I hope we remember that we didn’t really need all of that glaze to draw meaning from a Covid-time Christmas, and that Christmas has not lost its meaning, but probably means more now.

“One day we will share our special Christmas, and If I get lucky, then I’ll never let you go. If Christmas is the season for giving love, I will always love you more than you’ll ever know.”

“See you this Christmas.”

(And see you again in 2021…. I’ve got a few more things planned.)

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