It was a cold winter evening in December, 1943. With the war behind them, Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin sat together in an abandoned studio. Hugh, as was his custom, sat at the piano, fumbling through chord progressions, and filling the cold spaces with hints of melody. Ralph scribbled on a note pad, tilted his head, frowned, and then tore up the sheet before throwing it to the ground. The space around his chair was littered with such bunches of paper.

“This is ridiculous,” Ralph complained. “The night before Christmas, and we have a deadline. Write a new song by tomorrow!”

Hugh’s melody skipped a beat, as if the notes were an agreement with Ralph’s frustration. “Not fair. My family is in from Birmingham. I would much rather be spending tonight with them.” Hugh met Ralph’s glance and grinned. “No offence, Ralph.”

Ralph nodded. “I mean, it’s Christmas Eve! And they have us composing for Judy Garland’s new film. Couldn’t it wait for the new year?”

Shrugging, Hugh changed keys, playing a more relaxed song.
“This time of year, you know,” Hugh muttered. “Hearts should be light; and those troubles, our troubles, shouldn’t be blinding us. They should be out of sight and miles away.”

Nodding, Ralph tossed his pad aside and began to pace. “I miss the days of my youth. Those old, golden days. Christmas was when my dear friends, the faithful, would gather near.” He paused and stared out the window at the falling snow. “Oh, to have that once more.”

Hugh struck a minor chord, but kept the tune. “Then there’s us, Ralph. Through the years, we’ve stuck together.” He chuckled as his fingers danced across the ivories. “The things the fates allow.”

Ralph barely heard Hugh. His eyes were fixed upon the pine trees in the distant park. Christmas trees. “Oh, Hugh. To be home,” he whispered. “To hand a star upon the highest bow.”

He whirled in anger and frustration, slamming his fist upon the piano. Hugh started back, shocked at his friend’s sudden fury. “Yet we are here! Caged to complete a song for a mere film! And do you remember what they said to us before they left?”

Hugh nodded. “Yes. They said ‘Have yourselves a Merry Christmas, boys.’”

Ralph laughed in disgust, then slid down the back of the piano. His voice changed to despair. “And here we are. Having ourselves a merry little Christmas now.”

Hugh stood up, sending the piano bench falling back. He leaned over the piano, down at Ralph. Ralph tilted his head to the left, as if hearing something distant. He slowly smiled as he looked up at Hugh.

Leaping to his feet, Ralph Blane raced to grab his pencil and pad of paper.

Hugh Martin began the tune again.