For the 43rd year in a row, I continued a tradition of Christmas caroling with friends I have been caroling with since Junior High school. And best yet, my twin brother…
…and his wife came along with me.
Back when we were teenagers, a large group of my friends decided to go Christmas caroling in the neighborhood. Probably about 50 of us would meet in advance at one of our homes, distribute “song sheets” (lyrics to popular carols), and rehearse.
One of our friends played accordion, another played the flute, and a couple others played guitar. We sang our hearts out, even though we were not led by a choir director. We were pretty good, as I recall, and as our parents told us.
My twin brother back at that time didn’t want to have anything to do with Christmas caroling. He said that he couldn’t sing. I think the real reason that he did not want to join us was peer pressure. He was a jock, and jocks didn’t hang out with the nerds who went Christmas caroling.
My friends and I so enjoyed strolling around the neighborhood singing, then partying after, that after high school graduation, those of us who could and who remained in the area continued to get together one Saturday evening before Christmas and continue — or try to continue — the tradition.
Some years we had a large turn-out and great weather. Other years it was pouring rain and we “caroled” indoors. One year it snowed a foot — and we had the biggest snowball battle I ever remember!
As we grew older, married, had families, and moved around, the numbers of us who had time or wanted to continue caroling grew smaller. However, I am happy to say that we never stopped. This caroling tradition continues — as it did last night.
There are ten of us from that core group from Junior High who still live in the area and remain in touch. All are married and most have kids. Most of their kids these days are also married and have kids. So now our “tradition” is very family-oriented, with children and grandchildren of the core members joining us. Last night, we had as many gather as we did in the beginning: 50!
And last night was extra special, because my twin brother and his wife joined us, too. The weather was cool but not frigid. Great leather weather (yep, I wore leather jeans, boots, and a leather jacket.)
We met at a house once owned by parents of a core member. Now my friend (core member) lives in that same house in our old neighborhood, having inherited the house when her parents died.
We arrived fairly early, and enjoyed snacks and drinks, perhaps more of the “adult beverages” were consumed to loosen inhibitions among those more reluctant to sing. Me? I don’t drink alcohol because I’m crazy enough not to need any “lubrication.”
My brother enjoyed seeing some of our former classmates who he had not seen in a very, very long time. He also needed to get out and socialize some with a friendly group to re-acclimate to civilian life after the 9-month deployment that he served as a volunteer in (unmentioned area of the world.) He loved introducing his wife to our former (not “old”) classmates, too.
We pulled taffy, ate way too many cookies, and the kids bobbed for apples. Then we struck out to do what we were there for: we strolled the neighborhood for about an hour, stopped at about 10 houses, and sang.
My friends remembered that I enjoyed singing an old Italian hymn, Tu scendi dalle stelle which means You Come Down From The Stars. I had been practicing that hymn during the week this week, singing while preparing dinner, driving on errands, whatever. My brother kept hearing me sing, but didn’t ask why. He probably thought that I was being my usual nutty self.
We arrived at the rectory behind the Catholic Church in our former neighborhood, at the request of one of our core members who is active in this church. He knocked on the door, and his parish priest, as well as other priests and a few nuns, came out to greet us. My friend then asked me to sing that Italian folk song, because several of the clergy were Italian, and my friend knew that they would love to hear this tune. (Me: gulp; “no pressure.”)
I came forward, and a friend began strumming his guitar intro. I was feeling quite nervous. But always when I feel most apprehensive, my brother “knows” and stands by my side, as he did last night.
My brother and his wife (who is “real” Italian) stood next to me and joined me in what came out as three-part harmony of the most beautiful rendition of that tune I had ever heard. (Who says my brother can’t sing?) By the time we were finished, we all were crying, including the nuns and priests. I must say that something truly mystical, magical, and spiritual happened last night.
I so love living in a community where such traditions can be continued. Even though all of us lead very busy lives, we still find a way each year to be together and share joy. While we may not quite sound all that good any more, it’s our spirit and long bonds of friendship that carry us on this joyful journey.
I cannot say how I truly felt when my brother and sister-in-law sang with me. It is as if we were the only ones there. Together in heart, mind, and spirit. I just wish my spouse could have witnessed it, but he didn’t come with us because he detests social events.
What wonder, what magic, what sheer joy. Love your brother, your sister-in-law, and your friends. That’s what “community” is all about.
Life is short: Buon Natale!