My sister and best friend came to my house last night for coffee and girl talk. We haven't done that in quite awhile and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The coffee was hot, the lemon cookies tasted divine, and the talk danced from one topic to the next. The most surprising part of the evening, however, occurred when we broke out into song after discussing our favorite Christmas carols and we then proceeded to sing about ten of them right there at the dining room table.
And you know what? It felt really, really good. We congratulated each other for knowing all the verses, laughed when we said the words wrong or hit a badly pitched note, and smiled the entire time we sang. My kids eased over to watch us, wide-eyed with both astonishment and mirth. In front of them, three middle-aged ladies cavorted like children singing song after song, swaying at the table and thoroughly enjoying themselves. My husband even came out of his Monday night football man-cave to check on the ruckus in the dining room. Peeping around the corner, he smiled and just shook his head. He knows how absolutely silly I can be at times. I just keep reminding him that it's all part of my devastating charm, but I am not sure he believes me half the time.
I have incredibly fond memories of Christmas music. Most people either love it or hate it. Some enjoy it for a brief period and then grow to despise it by the time Christmas finally arrives. I, however, enjoy the songs from the very start of the Christmas season until the very end. I've always loved the carols, especially the religious ones, even though I've never been very religious. I suppose that stems from my deep appreciation for beautiful music. I've always loved the complexity of classical arrangements and something about the religious carols speaks to that love. They contain both a simplicity and a richness of composition that modern day Xmas songs lack.
I can listen to almost any Christmas carol and draw up memories long forgotten as well as memories that I thumb through and enjoy on a regular basis. Music has informed such a large part of my life that most of my very vivid remembrances include a song. This is especially true for the carols that play every year around this time. Christmas naturally lends itself to perusing cherished memories, but the music of Christmas makes them more brilliant and intense.
As a child, I remember singing carols in the car with my mother and sister. My father would join in on occasion, and entire road trips would pass moving from one song to the next. We always had music playing in the house and one of my clearest and earliest memories includes helping my father hang garland in the dining room while we sang along with the record player. I must have been about four years old and my mother's favorite album of carols sung by Wayne Newton caught my attention. I remember telling my father that the woman singing had such a beautiful voice. He laughed and laughed at that. I always loved Daddy's full-body laughter, how it consumed him and tickled everyone around him.
In middle school, I remember getting a group of friends together during Winter Break and going from house to house one afternoon singing Christmas carols. We thought it would be a silly way to spend the afternoon and we cracked jokes about the absurdity of it in between getting up enough nerve to actually sing. To our surprise and pleasure, most of the people we entertained seemed very happy to hear us sing. The most memorable part of the day, however, occurred when an elderly gentleman asked us to wait a moment as he wheeled his wife to the door in her chair so we might sing for her as well. I am sure more than a few of us thought that this might be his wife's last Christmas when we witnessed her frailty. All of us kids completely felt the emotion of the moment and we settled quietly to sing Silent Night as best we could. By the end of the song, everyone, including my sarcastic pre-teen friends had tears in his or her eyes.
In high school, my Latin teacher translated Christmas carols into the dead, yet beautiful language and we serenaded every class along our hallway during sixth period. Although embarrassed a bit due to the nerdiness of being in a Latin class and being forced to sing, we enjoyed every minute of it, making our classmates smile and giggle. Good music, in any language, transcends every circumstance. Unless a person is completely unfeeling, music makes an impact upon him or her--even snarky teenagers.
As an adult, after the births of my children, all of whom are born around Christmas, I remember singing them to comfort and sleep with beautiful carols, such as The Holly and The Ivy and O Holy Night. I have such special memories of holding their warm, tiny bodies close to mine and singing softly to them, feeling utterly blessed to have such little miracles in my life. Every time I hear either song, I am filled with love for my babies.
I am certain that last night, my kids created Christmas music memories of their own by watching their mother and their aunts act silly and sing at the top of their lungs. Hopefully they will remember this and many more pleasant instances where music provided a background soundtrack for all the love, joy, and happiness the Christmas season brings.