It was hot and uncomfortable where we sat, in folding chairs, on a dimly lit stage. We were all turned upstage, facing an old, out-of-tune piano. Our music teacher, Mrs. Blanchard, came in– carrying her usual load of music and instruments. She was followed by the scent of her trademark perfume, Tabu– choking us all, within minutes of her arrival.
She asked one of my classmates to help pass out the freshly mimeographed copies of the Christmas medley she’d put together for us to perform at our Christmas concert, in just a few weeks. Us, sing? In a concert? We were quite a motley crew. While most of us tried to sing, my friend Alex was busy trying to distract everyone. Always the class clown.
Mrs. Blanchard would try to ignore him. Often she’d grab him by the ear or the arm and make him sit on the bench next to her– which usually only made things worse.
She’d give him the evil eye and turn her back to us, facing the piano. Her long, manicured nails would click and clack on the keys of the piano as she would bang out the notes, trying to teach us harmony:
Spinning the dial from station to station,
We hear Christmas songs old,
And some that are new…
Mrs. Blanchard, would stop and look at us, usually grimacing; her painted on eyebrows raised. It was a look that put fear into us. A look, that would sometimes melt into a smile, sending audible sighs of relief around the room. At times, she reminded us of the witch in the Wizard of Oz; but we loved her and wanted to please her.
Somehow, we did managed to put on a Christmas concert that year. I played the drum for The Little Drummer Boy. And it was magical.
One year– I think it was kindergarten, I was a toy soldier. Years later, I played Joseph in the nativity. Christmas concerts, church cantatas and pageants were a big part of my growing up.
I can still remember believing in Santa and the anticipation of gifts on Christmas morning. I remember my sister and I sneaking into my parents’ closet— trying to steal a peak at our hidden gifts.
But, what I remember most about Christmas— was the lights. I still have vivid memories of seeing the amazing Christmas lights and giant Christmas cards that surrounded the Indiana War Memorial Plaza, in the heart of Indianapolis, with my parents.
I remember riding in the car, either coming home from Christmas shopping or visiting relatives– trying to look out the window and see all the Christmas lights along the way.
I remember pulling out boxes of old Christmas decorations with my Dad and spending hours— trying to untangle lights and replace burned out bulbs.
As a child, snow and Christmas lights were magic to me.
So there should be little wonder as to why I decorate as much as I do today.
Christmas is magical.
It’s the one time of year that it’s okay for us all to be kids again.
Every Christmas I feel especially close to my Grandmother, who passed away when I was a senior in college. She taught me so many things without really intending to, I imagine. She brought out a lot of my creativity through the many hours we spent baking and crafting together when I was young. My grandparents weren’t rich— but the Christmases we shared with them were always magical.
My parents were always careful to balance all the different aspects of the holidays, careful to keep the emphasis on the real reason for the season. We didn’t have a lot growing up– but we had everything.
To me, more than anything, Christmas is a feeling. Sometimes I feel it in my heart and sometimes in my gut. Sometimes it’s magical and sometimes it’s bittersweet. It’s a time to look ahead– and a time of remembrance.
Christmas is a time of wonder and awe– that the birth of an innocent child so many centuries ago, could ignite generation after generation with promise– and lead the world on a journey towards the eternal search for light and truth. The miracle of birth and rebirth.
Christmas is the time for us all to take a step back and view the world through the eyes and heart of a child. The eyes of innocence. The heart that can still believe. Where a world can still be guided by love and peace. A world where there is still hope. A world full of magic. A world where dreams and miracle can come true.
Christmas really is for children.
May this Christmas reawaken the child in all of us.