Christmas Whimsy

Despite my very best intentions, I have gotten caught up in the hurry, flurry, and scurry of the Christmas season. In fact, just yesterday I realized that I was one present short for two of my grandkids. That wouldn’t really matter except that kids count. Not count as in “matter” though they do, indeed, matter. Count as in “one-two-three-four.” Oh yes, they full-out know if one of their siblings gets one more present than they themselves bagged. It doesn’t make any difference if you actually spent more money on the child who got four presents instead of five. Nope. What matters is that there is the same number of presents sitting in front of each of the children after Whoever-Plays-Santa hands out the gifts.

No harm, no foul, because I quickly sat down and ordered presents from Amazon and they will be on my doorstep by December 19, guaranteed. Whatever did we do before Amazon? If they end up owning the world, I’m not sure that would be such a bad thing.

I spent the afternoon wrapping gifts and then sorting them by family. That was how I realized I was one gift short for two kids. And then I put back on the church-going clothes that I had discarded when we got home from Mass so that I was decently attired for Handel’s Messiah, the concert I was attending all by myself.

I was feeling a bit sad that I was going alone, despite the fact that I reminded myself (and really meant it) that I would rather go by myself than drag Bill who would fall asleep about 10 minutes into the performance. One should listen to the Messiah with someone else who loves it too. And as it turned out, I was perfectly fine. I find I’m great company! Besides, I started crying during the Hallelujah Chorus and I would have been embarrassed had someone been with me.

The week of Christmas is always a very busy time for me. I know, I know – it’s a very busy time for everyone. And I don’t even have a job that requires me to do all my Christmas things after 5 o’clock. But our Christmas celebrations are spread out which makes things a bit more difficult. We have our first celebration with Court and his family on December 23, as they always have family plans on Christmas Eve. Thus, Christmas Eve is devoted to the David McLain family (and the Heather-and-Lauren McLain family every other year, but sadly, not this year as they were here for Thanksgiving and so will be with the OTHER family for Christmas.  It’s fair play).

I have mentioned before that Bill and I spend Christmas Eve Day being the Grinch. Since we leave on Christmas Day, we take down all of our Christmas decorations that we so joyfully put up the weekend following Thanksgiving so that we don’t come back from AZ in May and face a sad-looking Christmas tree. I wish I had a big closet into which I could simply roll my still-decorated Christmas tree where it would sit for 12 months until next Christmas. That would be a benefit (and perhaps the only benefit) to living in a mansion. But the truth is that in May, when we return, there are tulips in our backyard and peonies ready to bloom. Much as I love Christmas decorations, I don’t want to face them when I’m ready to start gardening.

I want to conclude this rambling blog post about nothing by telling you a story. A week or so ago I wrote about the notion of living in the moment – mindfulness is what the article I was quoting called it. The article suggested that as a step in the right direction, you should begin to notice things you never realized about your spouse. I commented that I didn’t think there was a single thing I didn’t know about Bill after 25 years of marriage.

The other day we were having breakfast at a Mexican restaurant. Christmas music was playing in the background. The Christmas song All I Want for Christmas is You began playing. As Bill munched his huevos rancheros, he asked, “Isn’t this the Christmas song from Love, Actually?”…..

It was; in fact, it was from the soundtrack. He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “I think this is my favorite Christmas song.”

Now, that was out of the blue. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that song – in fact, I like it as well – in a million years, with my feet held to the fire, I would not have guessed that to be Bill’s favorite Christmas song. In fact, I would have sworn that he didn’t even have a favorite Christmas song since he really doesn’t appear to pay attention to any holiday music.

So, I’m mindful that I have a very interesting husband – more interesting, in fact, than I give him credit for.

I’d better sit on the front steps and await my Amazon deliveries.

Sing Along

One of my earliest church memories is listening to my dad sing in the St. Bonaventure Catholic Church choir. Mom and all of the kids would sit on the gospel side of the church (a habit I maintain to this day). In the early days, the choir was in the back of the church in the choir loft. At some point (likely after Vatican II), the choir was relocated to the front of the church – also on the gospel side – and I could watch him sing. I loved that.

He had a beautiful tenor voice, and though I never asked him the question (kids, ask your parents questions NOW), I suspect he really loved singing choral music. I say this because as I have reported before, in addition to singing in the church choir, he also belonged to a men’s choral group called the Apollo Club.

So, my love for choral music – and for singing choral music – came from my dad. There you go; another thing for which to be grateful to my father.

When my sister Bec was in college at the University of Nebraska, she took Choir as an elective choice, at least for one year, and maybe more. Her choir performed Handel’s Messiah at some point in the year, and I remember attending and being introduced for the very first time to that masterpiece. I decided right then and there that when I went to college, I was going to take Choir and perform Handel’s Messiah. I was in Choir at my high school, but let’s face it. Handel’s Messiah.

So when I did, indeed go to the University of Nebraska, I took Choir as an elective. As soon as I could, I began figuring out how I could be part of the chorale that sang that gorgeous music. I quickly learned that it required a tryout. Gulp.

I do not have a good voice. In the olden days, I could read music (thanks to my five years of piano lessons) and carry a reasonable tune. But I never even tried to fool myself into thinking that I had any singing talent. Nevertheless, I was determined to get on that chorale.

I don’t remember much about that tryout. I assume I must have had to sing something to the choir director, but I don’t remember what I sang. I only remember one thing: He asked me before I tried out what part I sang – soprano or alto. I, of course, had no idea; however, Bec sang alto. If it was what she sang, then I must also sing alto. Right?

So I performed whatever-it-was for him, and much to my surprise, I was accepted to the chorus. As I walked out of the room, he said to my back, “By the way, I don’t really think you sing alto, but we’ll go with that since that’s what you think you sing.”

Like I had any idea….

That semester – that class – was one of the best times of my life. And while the Hallelujah Chorus is magnificent, it’s not my favorite choral piece in the Messiah. That would be Worthy is the Lamb that Was Slain. Those opening notes bring tears to my eyes every single time.

Sunday, Bill and I went to Wellshire Presbyterian Church to worship at a special service that consisted mostly of choral music. Addie, Alastair, Dagny, and Maggie Faith all performed at least one number with one or another choral group. It was a joy to watch them sing.

What was also a joy was listening to the church’s regular choir perform some magnificent music. It’s hard to believe that a church choir could be so talented, but they really sounded beautiful. The church is blessed to have a gorgeous pipe organ with a worthy organist. That, along with the timpani drums and the magnificent voices, brought me chills.

And I went home and bought a ticket for a performance of Handel’s Messiah next Sunday at a nearby church. Yay me.