We have these amazingly talented next-door neighbors. They are very musically gifted. They’re pretty much professionals. They and their extended family and all their friends. Music is what they do. And at Christmas time, they’ve been known to do it in the form of caroling around our neighborhood. Only I’m realizing that they haven’t been around in several years. At least not to our house. And I’m pretty sure I know why.
There was a caroling incident.
One evening during a Christmas season past, Kent and I arrived home from somewhere. Our teenage boys were goofing around, as usual. One of them, (I think it was Kurt) said to another one of them (I’m pretty sure it was Jeff), “Oh yeah? Well, I’m telling Mom what you did to the Petersons tonight.”
“What did he do to the Petersons tonight?” I demanded.
Jeff immediately jumped onto Kurt’s back and tried to stifle him with a hand wrapped around his head, covering his mouth. Kurt probably licked it or something. Maybe tried to bite it.
“You did it, too, Kurt,” he accused, as he fell to the floor with a thud. “It wasn’t just me.”
“WHAT DID YOU GUYS DO TO THE PETERSONS?” I was a little bit nervous by now and when I get nervous, my volume increases. Kent and I have always been good neighbors. Considerate, polite, conscientious. What had these hooligans we call sons done?
“The Petersons came to our door Christmas caroling,” Kurt told us.
“Yeah, and Kurt didn’t want to go to the door,” Jeff was quick to add.
“Neither did you!”
“So what happened?” I demanded, rather impatiently. Was I going to have to be making amends after I heard whatever this was leading up to?
“So they were singing, and we didn’t want to go to the door. It’s so awkward when people sing to you. And Joel came downstairs and was going to get the door, but we stopped him. But I think they heard us. Anyway, we just stood still and tried not to move after that. I know they knew someone was home ‘cause they kept singing. I swear they sang about four songs waiting for someone to come to the door.”
And then Kurt started laughing. And Jeff attacked him again.
“And then Jeff, while they were standing there singing, turned off the porch light!”
Oh my gosh. So they knew someone was definitely home.
I looked at Jeff. He flashed a smile at me. The kind that says, “You’re not really going to get mad at me, are you?”
I shook my head and walked away.
I’ll come right out and say it: Christmas caroling can be awkward. I’m talking about when you are the recipient. It’s awkward in the same way that Happy Birthday is when you’re the one being sung to. You stand there feeling uncomfortable, wondering where you should look, and wearing a goofy smile. But Happy Birthday is relatively short and then you blow out the candles. If you could sing along it would help. But you’re not supposed to sing Happy Birthday to yourself. Nor are you supposed to join in with the carolers. I would never attempt to join in with the Petersons. I’d ruin their beautiful harmony. If I just had something to do while they sang… Maybe wave my arms around in a conducting pattern. As if that wouldn’t embarrass the kids. Maybe I could just tap my foot and nod in time to the music.
Anyway, I’ve missed the caroling. The Petersons haven’t come, and neither has anyone else. Maybe all the other carolers (like the Crafts and their extended family – some other very musically gifted neighbors of ours) heard the word that our family was inhospitable to their kind. But our boys have grown up. Mostly. And I think I’ve matured enough over the years to enjoy the music without feeling awkward.
Please come and carol to us. If you come and sing to us, I promise I won’t look around awkwardly, or wear a goofy smile, or pretend I’m conducting you. I'll be mature. I’ll just enjoy your beautiful talent and spend those few moments feeling the Spirit of Christmas in a way that I realize I've missed.