As empty nesters my wife is hell-bent on getting the house decorated “perfectly” for the arrival of our children and their significant others over the holidays. My jobs include getting the trees, yes trees, in their stands and in the house. Getting boxes of Christmas decorations out of the attic. Putting lights on just one of the trees, not the “main tree” because I don’t put enough strands on it or arrange them to her liking. My last job is decorating the bushes outside with lights and around the front door. Apparently, at least according to her, I got a late start this year decorating outside because “everyone”, which after 30 years of marriage I now interrupt as the entire world, have their yards decorated and we didn’t. We do now.
We spent all weekend putting the finishing touches on creating the “Perfect Christmas Masterpiece” and I spent all weekend telling her no. No, you don’t need that. No, you don’t have time to make that. No, we don’t need more lights there. No, I didn’t know where the wooden reindeer was……no, no, no!
At church Sunday the Pastor mentioned that a Repertory Theatre comprised of underserved youth from our community would be performing a Christmas pageant in the sanctuary that night. Though the performance was during dinner time, and I had worked my behind off stringing lights and bending wires I told her I needed to go and hear the children sing. Even with all the trappings of Christmas scattered around the house, even with the beautiful snow we got all day Saturday, the holiday merry bug hadn’t bitten me yet. Maybe this would help I thought.
The sanctuary was packed with parents and grandparents, whites and blacks, rich and poor, homeless and privileged. We were all there for the same thing, but probably for different reasons. The couple sitting behind us were sound a sleep. I know them. They have been on the streets for years. All of their belongs were stored in two trash bags stuffed under the pew. It was 28 degrees outside and for two hours they could catch some much-needed sleep on a hard bench with the warmth of carolers whirling around them.
An older couple sat in front of us wearing their most festive attire. They had seen many Christmases come and go in their 70 or 80 years. I didn’t know their story but I guessed their days of creating the “Perfect Christmas Masterpiece” were well behind them. They could still have kids, and grand-kids that would make their way home for the holidays or they could be like so many families today, too much distances to cover for such a short amount of time. Maybe they were just looking for some much-needed Christmas spirit of old on a hard bench with the warmth of carolers whirling around them.
A young mother sat in front of the older couple. She had a child in the pageant, another one sitting beside her and a young child in her arms who wasn’t enjoying the festivities as much as the rest of us were. Over the course of two hours she had to walk to the back of the sanctuary several times to try a calm her fussy baby down while keeping one eye on the child she left in the pew and the other on the pageant. This young mother was juggling so much just to be there and watch her child perform. I could only imagine what she had to juggle everyday just living. Maybe she was just looking for a short escape on a hard bench with the warmth of carolers whirling around her.
For two hours I watched children twirl and sing. Bright eyes on bright faces that brought a smile across my very unmerry face. Sweet voices singing old songs with a jazzy, modern twist. I had a lump in my throat and mist in my eyes until I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing during a beautiful rendition of Oh Holy Night. The holiday, merry bug had finally bitten me. Maybe I just needed to see the magic and the possibility of the season on the faces of these people around me if just for a brief moment on a hard bench with the warmth of carolers whirling around us.
“Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices, Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born, Oh night divine, Oh night divine” – Oh Holy Night