Let me start by telling you I love Christmas carols. I used to love to play Christmas Carols on my flute. When I did, however, it was much to the chagrin of my family including Pudge, the best dog in the whole, entire universe. For some odd reason I never was inspired to play anything other than Christmas carols (except for “Carnival of Venice” which I learned when I was nine years old and would play over and over for my dying grandmother, who layed motionless in a hospital bed parked in her dining room having supplanted the formal dinner table that sat eight). For the better part of any given year post 1976, the flute remained nestled snuggly in its case lined in navy blue velvet. This is why my playing each December sounded, shall we say, rusty. Even when I was younger, took lessons and practiced daily, I never was more than a mediocre musician, so I suppose I couldn’t argue with Pat’s and the boys’ annual protesting when, as advent season approached, I unpacked my instrument and dusted off my ancient copy of Favorite Easy Christmas Flute Solos. Apparently my playing even made the dog nervous. So much for all that rubbish about music soothing the savage breast.
Rather than struggling my way through the few songs my dilettante musicianship allowed and in order to restore familial harmony, I simply abandoned the whole idea of accompanying my gang on the flute whilst they cozied up around the fireplace watching the chestnuts pop, singing “Sleigh Ride” and sipping hot cocoa topped with whipped cream and marshmallows. As lovely as it was, this Courier and Ives fantasy of mine was unrealistic for a number of reasons, the least of which probably was not even the quality of my flute playing. I am quite certain that if Marvin Hamlisch himself were to pop up uninvited on my doorstep and tinkle his way across the ivories on the piano in my living room, there still would be no hope of a spontaneous Datoc family sing-a-long. Those of you who know us know there’s no mistaking my clan for the Osmonds. That’s for sure. Alas, the futility of it all makes it far less frustrating for everyone if I don’t play Christmas carols on my flute.
Now pay attention because I am about to tell you a secret. Get ready. I sing along with the radio when I am alone in the car. You’re probably thinking, “Shut up! No, really? I do that too!” I’m not going to delude myself into thinking I’m all that special. It’s not as if I’m in a state of oblivion. Really, I am aware that I’m not the only person who sings in the car. Let me say this, though. I just don’t sing when I’m in the car. No, no, no. I SING when I’m in the car. There is something acoustically perfect about driving around in a car that compels me to turn up the volume on the radio and sing at the top of my lungs especially at Christmas time. Remember I love Christmas carols. There’s this XM radio station, channel 4, called Holly that is all Christmas music all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week starting the week before Thanksgiving and lasting through New Years. I LOVE TO SING ALONG WITH CHRISTMAS CAROLS ON XM RADIO CHANNEL 4. I even sing the obscure tunes. What, you are wondering, do I do if I don’t know the words? Not a problem. I just make them up as I go along! Right or wrong, I belt out lyrics from the pit of my stomach in brassy There’s-No-Business-Like-Show-Business Ethel Merman style. And by the way, for those of you youngsters who don’t know who Ethel Merman was, she had more knock’em dead panache and bigger chops than Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce COMBINED. I am not kidding. When she opened her mouth to sing it was with impeccable diction, perfect projection, and bring the house down Broadway charisma.
I mean no disrespect to Ms. Merman (may she rest in peace) by comparing myself to her. I’m just saying, I’ve been known to pack quite a powerful vocal punch myself (that is, when I’m behind the wheel of course). It’s why I find it necessary to restrict myself to singing when, and ONLY when, I am alone in the car. See, about five years ago I was driving the kids home from school one afternoon. While cantillating along to one of my all-time favorites, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” I figured I’d try pushing my pipes to their absolute limit. I was approaching the peak of my crescendo, headed for the big finish, “glory-ee toooo the neeeew boooorrrrn KINGGGG,” when from the back seat Jared exploded.
“ENOUGH, MOM,” he shouted, “PLEASE STOP!”
I quickly looked to my right. Christian, clad in sound muffling headphones was slumped in the passenger seat, fast asleep. I immediately glanced in the rear view mirror and beheld a sight that made me gasp. Truly, I tell you, my heart skipped a beat. For my singing, infused with the emotional essence of Christmas, had driven Jared to the brink of tears.
“Honey, are you all right?”
“Mom. Please don’t sing like that anymore. It…”
“I know sweetie,” I interrupted.
It felt obscene: my suppressing a threatening convulsion of excitement, which came at the expense of my ten-year-old son’s struggling to control an avalanche of feelings. Did I even dare to imagine that my…singing possibly could have incited such a quagmire of sensibilities? This, I imagined, must be how Sally Field felt when accepting her Best Actress Oscar, “You love me! You really love me.” (Okay maybe she actually said like but love works better in my story.)
“You don’t need to explain.” I consoled, “Mommy understands.”
And that, my friends, is why I try my very best to sing Christmas carols when, and ONLY when, I am driving in the car by myself. I mean it’s hard enough to drive and sing simultaneously, let alone juggle an emotionally charged carload of passengers too. It simply isn’t safe. Oh well (sigh). There is something acoustically perfect about driving around in a car that compels me to turn up the volume on the radio and sing at the top of my lungs especially at Christmas time. Remember I love Christmas carols. I have to admit I am surely far from perfect and there are times when I fail to control my impulses. Thankfully Jared always is quick to remind me.
“ENOUGH, MOM! PLEASE STOP!” We have a very special mother-son bond which is why he is so susceptible to the effects of my singing. He’s so emotional.
Till tomorrow… Good night. Sleep tight.