Archive for Wednesday, December 7, 2005

The best gifts are unexpected

December 7, 2005

Holiday spirit's been elusive for me this year.

I can't pinpoint why, but I have struggled getting in the mood for Christmas.

Perhaps it's because I feel overwhelmed as I look at my Christmas gift list. Or maybe it's because the workload at newspapers never takes a holiday. It could be because our weather was so balmy for so long that my internal clock was tricked into believing it was spring.

I suppose I could be affected by what seems to be a never-ending string of bad news, brought to me 24 hours a day by CNN -- more U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, heating bills are exceeding even the more extreme predictions, preparations are under way to combat pandemic flu.

Just one newscast is enough to stamp out anyone's holiday cheer.

Regardless of the reasons, I've been extremely slow to capture my usual excitement about the holiday.

But that all took a turn last Thursday night.

After the mayor's annual tree-lighting ceremony in VFW Park, I received an early holiday present. And what a wonderful gift it was.

As I worked at our front desk here at The Mirror, I caught a glimpse of carolers strolling down the street. The young singers filed into our office, filling our tiny reception area, where they serenaded me.

I suspect it was the warmth of our office that initially attracted them, considering it was a cool 26 degrees outside.

But these young people -- all members of Tonganoxie High School's Chieftain Singers -- filled me with the warmth of the holiday season as they sang "Silent Night."

That lovely old carol, sung in beautiful harmony, brought back all Christmases past. Those warm, amber-glow memories washed over me. And they reminded me, as the worn-out, but-true saying goes, of "the reason for the season."

A few stanzas of "Silent Night" did what several weeks of talking to myself could not.

It is interesting how music affects me, and many other folks.

I usually get teary-eyed and my throat closes up when I sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before sporting events. When high school bands play a John Philip Sousa march, I start thinking in after-beats, which is about all Sousa wrote for French horn players. And as I hear music popular during my college days at Kansas University -- the Dark Ages, to the young musicians who visited me last Thursday night -- I'm transported in mere seconds to the 1970s.

I'm always amazed at most people's capacity to remember song lyrics.

Why, I think that if some smart publishers would put textbooks to music, students would have no difficulty recalling even the most complicated equations. My almost-81-year-old mother loves to test her capacity to recall words to songs, some of which I've never heard. Sometimes, frustrated, she calls me, asking me to look up lyrics for her on a Web site, print them and mail them to her.

And so, as the Chieftain Singers formed the words, "All is calm, all is bright," I hummed to myself. "Round yon Virgin Mother and Child."

As I listened to the beautiful music, it all came back to me, the true meaning of Christmas, thanks to an unexpected visit by the Chieftain Singers.

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