Some years, I have a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. I hear Christmas music in the grocery store and think, “What is that weird music?” Christmas lights seem lost, tiny white bulbs against the glaring loom of the big city. People going into stores to shop seem unrelated to me, as though I’m adrift in an alien culture.
This afternoon, another day working on our house, was filled with plumbing and mini-blinds, difficult discussions, deferred decisions. I put on some Christmas music, James Brown singing “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” and the Roche Sisters’ wonderfully nasal rendition of “Fraaawsty, the Snowman.” Still no spirit.
Around 6 pm, we knocked off work and drove to Greenlake, where some friends of ours were planning to gather. On this one evening, the entire lake is lined with white luminaria, and thousands of people stroll around it, enjoying the lights. The e-mail from Tina mentioned caroling, and a friend of hers planned to bring a wheeled antique wood stove (I didn’t know there was such a thing!).
From where we parked, we had to walk quite a ways around the candlelit lake on our way to meet our friends. People were strolling in both directions, ambling along in small groups accompanied by children and dogs. Barry and I, being in a hurry, zoomed around them, weaving in and out like two-legged sports cars.
The problem with events like these is that it’s cold. And dark. So everybody is bundled up in hats and scarves, looking like shadowy Polar Fleece blobs. I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize Tina, who we’d only known in the summertime, in bathing suit weather.
When we arrived at the Bathhouse, there was a group standing under the streetlight, caroling. Yikes! I hoped that wasn’t our group — these folks were actually performing with a conductor! A bit further on, we found the wood stove.
The portable antique woodstove stood on the path on a wheeled cart with a pot of cider steaming on its top. A tall fellow in a fuzzy Santa hat was tending it. “Hello, are you our party?” we asked. Howard was a friend of Tina’s, and he invited us to pour some cider into the cups we’d conveniently brought along. A small group circled round the 2-burner stove, and Howard passed out songbooks.
What a blast! We belted out all the old standards, like “Deck the Halls” and “Let it Snow.” “Here We Come A Wassailing” was a big hit, and by the time we made it through all the stanzas of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” there was a small crowd, applauding. They left in a hurry when we did “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas,” either because they were afraid of gettin’ nuttin’ by association, or because we sounded so bad.
Children kept coming by and making requests — always “Rudolph” or “Frosty.” One woman wanted to put money in my cup. When she realized we were just singing for fun (there was cider in my cup!), she gave me a hug (a total stranger) and thanked me profusely. Heck, all I was doing was standing around, drinking cider and singing off-key!
It was one of those heart-warming experiences, where you go out just to have a good time, and what happens? You end up making a lot of people happy. Somewhere along the line, I picked up that Christmas spirit I was missing. Maybe somebody slipped it into my cup when I wasn’t looking, but I definitely brought it home with me.