It was my eighth Christmas. Everyone on my mom’s side of the family had been invited to her sister’s house for a grand holiday gala. Appropriate attire was dressy, so, given my penchant for all things glam, this soiree would definitely be my cup of tea — or egg nog, as the case may be. Mom pulled out all the stops and bought me a to-die-for party dress: black velvet bodice overlaid with a crocheted lace “cumberbund”, and a gathered white organdy skirt with flocked black polka dots. I swooned. Before we left for the party, Dad pulled out the camera. The boys must have had their pictures taken, too, but all that didn’t really register, what with me being utterly blissed out that my “look” would be captured for posterity!
The many guests “fit” nicely in my aunt and uncle’s spacious home: adults could be found chatting it up in the living room, dining room and even the kitchen, while youngsters congregated in the more kid-friendly areas of the home. Oh, how I loved being invited into other kids’ bedrooms and playing with their games and toys!
Another aunt and uncle and their three daughters had come all the way from California for the occasion. I was taken by the fact these (slightly older and therefore automatically glamorous) cousins all wore party dresses of the same pretty mint green fabric, but each one in a unique style. Way cool. With everyone donning such holiday finery, the spread of delicious food and the glittering decorations, it was an altogether splendid affair. About halfway through the evening, the doorbell rang, my aunt answered, and… magic happened.
She swung wide the door to the sight of perhaps a dozen people bundled in overcoats, hats, mufflers, gloves and muffs. She and my uncle called to everyone to gather onto the porch and in the doorway as the callers broke into song. I was completely mesmerized, drinking in the beauty of the a cappella harmonies. The appearance of the carolers sealed the deal in my (barely seven-year-old) judgment: this was indeed a perfect party. Not even a subsequent visit by Santa (if memory serves) could upstage that enchanting music. I don’t believe I could tell you even now what it was about the caroling that had such an impact, nor is it important that I understand it, but just that I cherish the memory.
It would be about 45 years before I revisited that magic. I had an opportunity to join a group who were making plans to carol in our church’s neighborhood. We practiced our abbreviated song list and headed out, battery operated candles in hand and brightly wrapped gift mugs containing cocoa mix in tow. I was particularly eager to (hopefully) replicate the experience I had had for another child. But, to my surprise, it was the expression on the faces of adults who opened their doors to the sound of “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night” that indicated they also felt the magic — just as I had, so many years earlier. Perhaps it’s just something that strikes a chord in our psyches, harking back to an age when folks would have gathered around troubadours and minstrels, when music was shared person-to-person, not via earbuds.
So here’s my vote for creating more music ourselves (rather than relegating it to professionals exclusively) and sharing it with others, face to face.
And too, here’s a big YES vote for my aunt and uncle having created my memory of an utterly perfect holiday party.