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Joy to the World. . .Maybe

By LC Van Savage

There is a man named Rick at our local postoffice, and today he told me he had a good idea for a column. Now when anyone anywhere says that to me, I pay strict attention. I wouldnít want to be rude, you know. And Iíd never pass up a good idea for this column!

Rick told me he thought I ought to write about Christmas carols and their meanings. And so I went home thinking about it, and decided I do want to write on this subject, but maybe not exactly the way Rick intended. I think his suggestion was more along the lines of the good feelings people get around this time of year, especially when we hear Christmas carols. Rick was suggesting something positive. I will offer something maybe a little bah-humbugish. A little wet blanketish. Killjoyish. You get the picture.

You see, it makes me very nervous. Door to door caroling, that is. I donít mind singing the carols, even when it means standing outside a personís home trying to warble a harmony in air so cold the words shatter to the ground as they leave my mouth and my nose hairs become tiny frozen spikes. I donít mind steering my fellow-carolers past a home when thereís clearly a menorah in the window. I donít mind forgetting the words to the 4th stanza of Good King Wenceslaus Looked Out. (And by the way, it is not "Good King Wensliss Last Looked Out." Iíll admit I used to think it was that way too.)

No. What truly makes me squirm is when those good and very well intentioned people who want no more than to spread a little seasonís magic, ring my doorbell with the sole purpose of making my Christmas joyful by singing a few Noel ditties for me and my dear husband "Mongo." They give of their time and hearken out into our very harsh climate to bring warmth, love and joy. And how do I show my appreciation? I twitch.

You see, I just donít know where to look or what to do. Do I leave the door open and then worry about the depletion of fossil fuels while our oil heat flies into the ether and theyíre only on Chart 1? Do I smile? Look touched? Moved? And who do I look at? What if I donít recognize anyone? What if I do? Do I offer them cookies and cocoa? A Virgin Mary? Sacrificial wine? And what if I start applauding and thanking them profusely and in the midst of my gush, they burst into yet another number?

So as Grinchy as it sounds, when I hear those good and noble carolers down the street, I yell "hit the lights and drop to the floor!" Yes I know. Iím an ungrateful loser.

But itís not just the carolers. Know what other kind of music gets me wildly crazy? Itís those strolling musicians in restaurants. If theyíre at a table near us I tell Mongo to hurry, hurry, and I bolt my food and charge outta there rather than having to sit and listen. I wish they wouldnít come up to my table and begin playing.

Now look. I understand those guys are just trying to make a buck like anyone else, and Iím sensitive to that. But hereís my list of questions with regard to them; do I stop eating and try to look enraptured over their singing/playing? And where in fact do I look? At their hands on the frets? The bows? The accordionís keyboard? Into their big cheesy grins? Do I stare flirtatiously into their eyes? Do I sing along? Do I shout out musical suggestions? Could I pretend to be stone deaf and just not notice theyíre there? Should I just ignore them? And since I didnít invite them over, do I still have to give them a tip? And if I donít give them a tip, will they keep on playing and playing and playing, and like a horrible nightmare even follow us to the parking lot mortifying us for not forking over a couple of dollars for their efforts we didnít want in the first place?

In one of my incarnations I was going to be the Best Guitar Player on Earth. (Iíve had a great many Best **** On Earthís in my lifetime.) But back then I was really serious and I practiced a lot. Bloody fingers and everything. I got pretty good, too, although I was too embarrassed to sing aloud along with my strumming, and could only play guitar harmony which doesnít sound like anything much when played without a singer doing the melody. So I gave it up to become another B*** OE at something else.

Anyway for a while I had a friend guitar teacher whoíd come to the house. His name was Mort and he really thought he was the Best Guitarist On Earth even though he could clearly see I was probably about to dethrone him. When he wasnít patiently trying to teach not very talented people like moi to master the strings, heíd compose songs that of course he loved to play for me. Oh boy. I could always tell by Mortís face when he arrived that I was about to hear his newest rip-off of Blowiní In The Wind or Puff The Magic Dragon. (He changed it to Gila Monster. "There Was a Gila Monster/Lived By The Sea" etc. Itís a blessing for him he never got it published. Peter Paul and Mary would have sued him for every bit of his string and sealing wax.)

So Mort would come in and cheerfully say "Hey LC! Before we begin, wanna hear my latest?" And of course, like always, Iíd cave and say just as cheerfully "Oh, sure I would! Great!" And weíd sit on the couch and heíd begin and I just didnít know what to do or where to look. Iíd try looking fascinated (I was not) Iíd attempt looking deeply moved (I was never) and I tried looking unblinkingly at his face. The problem was that he was always looking back, lovingly, and then I really didnít know where to look. So Iíd stare at his hands, hoping my expression would read that I was memorizing his fingerwork. I hated that. I hated his music, I hated my wretched discomfort, my wimpiness, and in due time, I hated Mort.

So there it is. Hey, I truly do love Christmas carols and understand their great significance in the holiday scheme of things. Theyíre good. Theyíre great! They absolutely make the Christmas season. I guess I want to be the one to play the music, and to not have it played at me. I know. Iím going to hell. But thatís how it is, folks. Sorry Rick. Bughum-bah.  

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