This post is part of our Magic of a Childhood Christmas series. I’m so happy to have Leigh Kramer from HopefulLeigh join us today to share a touching memory from her childhood.
I never believed in Santa Claus. My brother and I read books explaining Old St. Nick’s origin and Christian roots. Our family focused on the birth of baby Jesus and I never felt I was missing out by not believing in Santa. If anything, it gave me an excuse to be mischievous.
Like arranging a plate of cookies for “Santa” and putting the cookies Dad didn’t like there.
We left plenty of room for the wonder of the season. Still, by the time I arrived in junior high, all that mattered was being cool. Christmas wasn’t cool. I didn’t feel like celebrating anything related to God anyway.
I was not popular at my small Christian grammar school but I had a few like-minded friends. It should have been enough but it wasn’t. By the beginning of 7th grade, I was fully depressed.
Good moments were few and far between but Christmas 1991 was a bright beacon amidst the darkness.
I joined the junior high choir because I liked to sing. I held no illusions about my voice. I can carry a tune and my voice blends well with others but no one will ask me to sing solo. Most of the time, I was content to be in the background.
When Mr. Wright announced our Christmas concert would feature the first verse of Silver Bells as a soprano-alto duet, my heart stormed right out of my chest. He told us anyone interested should pair up and stay after practice. My best friend Ruth and I decided to audition, along with 6 other girls. We were a mix of 7th and 8th graders, cool girls and not-as-cool girls.
There was no way Mr. Wright would pick me, I knew it deep down. But I had to try. The spotlight’s allure was a siren.
The room was bright and cold, our voices filled the air with the song of city sidewalks, busy sidewalks. Before I knew it, Mr. Wright decided we’d be an ensemble instead of whittling us down to a duet.
He chose me. And seven others. But still, he chose me. The sensation of happiness had become foreign to me. It didn’t stay long but oh, the elation of that moment!
Over the next few weeks, the eight of us practiced the first verse, learning where to bend and emphasize. We kept large smiles on our faces to prove how very merry we were. During the dress rehearsal, we moved down from the risers of one accord when it was Silver Bells’ time and then seamlessly reintegrated ourselves into the choir when our part was through.
The night of the concert, we arrived early, everyone pacing and complimenting on hair and choice of attire. Girls in red, guys in green, if I recall correctly. Dots of Christmas cheer. At some point, we filed out into the gymnasium and stood before our loved ones. I love Christmas music but I can’t remember one other song we sang that night. Only Silver Bells mattered.
Butterflies drummed about my stomach. Suddenly, this special ensemble thing seemed like a horrible idea but there was nothing to do about it. Ruth and I exchanged glances from our respective places just before we stepped down toward the microphone.
The eight of us paused in our semicircle; we summoned our inner cheer. And then we sang.
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on ev’ry street corner you’ll hear
It was through. We exchanged grins of triumph as the choir joined us on the chorus.
Silver bells, silver bells
It’s Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them sing
Soon it will be Christmas day
Our ensemble departed back into the choir as we began singing the second verse in unison. Adrenaline pumped through me. The crowd may not have been able to pick my voice out in the ensemble but I’d played a part in it. The spotlight was mine for a brief moment and while I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis, it had been entirely worth it.
I imagined the scene described in the song, a depiction seemingly of an idyllic time from long ago. I pictured the lights in downtown Chicago and downtown Wheaton, a bustling city and an idyllic town. Happiness overwhelmed me once more. Perhaps Silver Bells doesn’t place sufficient emphasis on Christ’s birth but how else could I attribute the inherent happiness and joy in that song?
The wonder of Christmas restored to me by a grammar school concert.
Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee with only fried pickles for comfort, quit steady job as a social worker to chase that dream of writing at last, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. She is a contributor at A Deeper Family. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at LeighKramer.com and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.