Christmas mornings, Dad made us wait at the top of the stairs until he gave the all clear. He’d queue up some Christmas music, put on the kettle for tea, plug in the lights on the tree, and when we were quite young, turn on the little train that went around its base. When he returned, we’d pose in our pajamas on the stairs for a photo before being released to see what surprises awaited. When we opened presents, it was clear he’d had nothing to do with the planning, purchase, or wrapping of a single one. But he would sit, watching, taking us in, content.
As a teenager, most years I would sing at church on Christmas Eve. My family sat in the fourth pew, and when I stood up front, I’d see my mom mentally singing along with me, silently counting, willing me to attack the notes from above, to open up and resonate, to keep my breath support strong. Basically she was working along with me. And next to her, Dad–who always thought it sounded great–relaxed, usually with eyes mostly closed and his mouth turned up slightly in a hint of a smile, rocking back and forth, out of time but content. Continue reading “And I softly listened”