Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy anyway

The following is an except from my upcoming book, A Million Sticky Kisses.

"After school, I was invited to go with the chorus to the annual Christmas concert at a nearby cathedral. Students from each of The Network’s schools participated. My kids were partnered with girls from the adjacent high school.

We left from school in a large van, zigging and zagging down narrow backstreets to arrive at the church just in time. In the 90-degree heat, my clothes clung to me as we hurried the kids inside to find our pews. I left summer temperatures behind as I stepped into the ancient church where it was blessedly cool. The air smelled of candles and furniture wax.

I sat with the mother of one of my students and kept an eye on them. In our chorus were eighteen girls and one lone boy. They were the only ones wearing their “every day” uniforms, the same tired, gray sweatsuits that they wore to school. Choir members from the other schools had on school uniforms, too, but they were cleaner, dressier, and more expensive. White shirts, navy pants for boys and white shirts with navy jumpers for girls. I had never seen my kids in any uniform except the sweatsuit and I wondered if my school might be the poorest in The Network.

Hearing commotion behind me, I turned around to find little girls pushing off one side and sliding to the opposite end of the polished pew. I gave them a look that included an arched eyebrow and they settled down again, giggling.

The concert began, only fifteen minutes late, with "It Came upon a Midnight Clear." I recognized it from the melody, not the lyrics, since it was sung in Spanish. My kids were next. I'd never heard their song before, but it was beautiful with their young voices echoing strong in the vaulted cathedral. They accompanied the song by clapping their hands in flamenco-style rhythm as the youngest girl pinged on a triangle.

Out of the twenty or more songs that were sung, I only recognized five. The rest were traditional Chilean Christmas songs, unknown to me.

After the concert, we were dropped off back at school. It was later than usual when I boarded the Metro to go home. The train car was crowded and, at first, I didn't notice the man who had followed me in..."

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy Whatever-You-Celebrate or even if you don't, Happy anyway.

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