Saturday, January 7, 2012
I know now I had no idea how much it meant back then; how much I had nor how unique it was. Every year ten or fifteen families as well as a few stragglers would show up a few days before Christmas, each carrying some sort of dish to share. Main dishes, salads, breads, desserts, dressings, drinks, chips, salsas, the list goes on and on. Mum would have made her famous homemade lasagna, both a meat and a vegetarian, their rich aromas barely contained by the aluminum foil before billowing forth to fill the house with their intoxicating goodness. Two families would always come earlier than the rest. These were our closest friends. We would do a gift exchange before the others arrived and I relished in the feeling of importance. Not that they came over just for me, but that for bit of time, I had a friend or two all to myself, before other kids came and stole them from me.
When the others arrived, the kids would immediately tear away from their parental units to our unfinished but spacious attic to play with any number of toys. Cardboard bricks, one pair of rollerblades accompanied by two battered hockey sticks and a puck, plastic golf clubs, and of course, the annual piñata that my brother, myself, and mum had painstakingly made out of paper maché. We would play our hearts out while the parents did whatever boring things parents did. Finally the call to eat would ring up the ladder from the kitchen and we would push and shove to be first in line to fill our plates.
After shoveling down the food without a thought, we’d return back upstairs until the second call came. A little less hurriedly we’d make our way downstairs to the living room and sit with each of our families as my mum would hand out the lyrics packets. She would take her place behind a guitar and the singing would begin. Timidly at first, as we all fell into rhythm, as we all remembered that we could trust each other and actually let our voices be heard. Soon the carols filled the room and threatened to burst through the windows into the frigid night air. We would stop only to vie and vote for the next song, then once again our voices and hearts would unite into one song. O Holy Night. What Child is This. In the Bleak Midwinter. Deck the Halls. Little Drummer Boy. And on and on.
The agenda for the night never changed. But we grew. The two families coming early; the gift exchange followed by the eager anticipation of others arriving; the kids grouping together, each year trying to act more mature but not join the boring adults. Finally the call to food; each year my curiosity and appreciation growing as I tried to find out who had brought which dish and whether they had made it by hand or bought it from the store. Then the climax of the night. The singing was always the part that I didn’t look forward to, but that I enjoyed the most when I was in it. Mum always played the guitar while the rest of us simply gave our vocal chords.
This tradition went on. By the time it ended the year of my parents separation, it was the 16th annual sing and I had begun to look forward to the singing part just as much as the food (if not more, but shh, don’t tell anyone). There is something powerful in singing together. In uniting our voices into one song. Even this Christmas Eve, Ash and I attended a church service in the historic Black Church in the center of Brașov, Romania. The service was conducted in German, so we understood nothing of what was said or sung. But then, the choir sang Silent Night, and the congregation joined in. A thousand voices became one powerful, pounding chorus. The lights were turned off and the only the candles sitting precariously on the Christmas trees at the front of the church and on the alter shone. Though we couldn’t join in the German version, we closed our eyes and let our souls join the thousand others singing in the darkness.
I’m sure there were a lot of different people in that church that night, as I know there were different people who came to our home for so many years. Each with their different view points. Their different political orientations, passions, hopes, dreams and sorrows. But it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered as the height of the chorus peaked. We were together. All of us. Together in the song.
How beautiful would it be if the whole world joined together in a song?annuadr of hockey sticks and a pNourse, the annual pins, one pair of rollerblades accompanied by a pair of hockey sticks and a p