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Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

On a snowy Chistmas Eve in Rochester, New York, 1989, a tradition was born that continues every year. Excited children (first two, then three and now almost all grown to adulthood), surround Dad on the living room sofa for his annual reading of The Polar Express. Each year the story remains the same, but somehow Dad adds a new touch with every reading ~ a special sound effect, a character's voice ~ small details which bring the story to life and bring smiles and sometimes laughter from the sofa every Christmas Eve.

After remembering how they all still want to hear Santa's bell, the children on the sofa snuggle closer to Dad as he sits up a bit straighter, clears his throat, and introduces "Luke, Chapter 2", music which, he explains, was composed by his fourth grade parochial school teacher, Mr. "Soreguts." Of course, there is a bit of irreverent giggling from the sofa at the sound of the teacher's name, and as years progress, giggling develops into gastrointestinal jokes which will finally be settled by Dad quietly stating, "Yes, but he had a good heart." That is the cue that the performance is about to begin, and silence prevails.

"And it came to pass..." Dad sings out confidently, peacefully, the words from the second chapter of Luke so committed to memory as well as the lilting melody, nowhere on paper but each year the same hauntingly beautiful tune. Originally composed for a school choir, the children on the sofa wait for their parts, small choral interludes interspersed after key phrases, which over the years will also come to be accompanied with dramatic sweeping arm movements. "...And on earth peace. Peace. Peace on earth." Dad's clear voice quietly trails off.

Applause follows the performance and the group moves to the piano with Mom to finish the evening with carols. All the favorites are sung ~ "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Deck the Halls," "Joy to the World," and many more. The final song of Christmas Eve that night, and every Christmas Eve since, is one of Andrew's (then almost 4 years old) favorite songs, "Old Toy Trains" recorded by Raffi.

Old toy trains, little toy tracks
Little toy drums coming from a sack
Carried by a man dressed in white and red
Little boy, don't you think it's time you were in bed?
Close your eyes, Listen to the skies
All is calm, all is well
Soon you'll hear Kris Kringle and the jingle bells

Bringin' old toy trains, little toy tracks
Little toy drums coming from a sack
Carried by a man dressed in white and red
Little boy, don't you think it's time you were in bed?

Of course, the last line is Andrew's and sister's cue that now's the time for bed so that Santa can come. Bedtime hugs and kisses are shared, and over the years, Dad will tuck the children ~ first two, then three ~ into their beds for Christmas Eve prayers.

Tonight, Christmas Eve 2007, was really no different ~ 3 excited siblings squeezed on the living room sofa, surrounding Dad; "The Polar Express"; Dad's singing of Luke, Chapter 2; carol singing arond the piano (Mom did pretty well with one hand this year!); and finally, a very teary rendition of "Old Toy Trains." Andrew, once almost 4, is now almost 22, and is making plans to leave in June with the Peace Corps. As we sang the final chorus, we all realized that our "little boy" would be spending his next Christmas somewhere in sub Saharan Africa. The hugs we all shared tonight after the song were especially dear and warm.

A very merry, blessed Christmas to all...


RedBessBonney said...

Merry Christmas!

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