Tradition? I SNOW on your tradition.

January 7, 2009

Picture it: Christmas Eve, 2008. The weather was a cluster and we were all fucked, Blanche.

For the past three years, since I was hired at this particular church, my family and I have done the same thing at Christmas.  Since I conduct the choir, and sing the solos, I have to be at both the 7pm and 11pm Christmas Eve services.  So, to spend any time with my folks at all, we go to dinner before my choir rehearsal, which is usually before the first service.  Then I duck out early, leaving them with the bill, and rehearse my choir; they show up at about service time and sing along in harmony.

This year, the choir wasn’t singing because the snowy weather combined with the media scare tactics about the snowy weather caused everyone older than 55 – my entire choir population – to have a massive panic attack.  I had to cancel all the rehearsals in the frickin’ month of December, which I didn’t mind so much, really.  The end result was No Choir on Christmas.  Ah, well.  It was just me, and my intrepid organist of the multiple kidney failure and short, repetitive comas, and my pianist, and my good friend Meg.

I’d hired Meg to play clarinet for both services, mostly so I wouldn’t be bored out of my fucking mind.  I picked her up at about 4:30 so we could head up north toward the church.  We had dinner reservations, and my folks were all planning to meet us before service.

However!  Earlier that day, my mom had to leave her car at the bottom of our not-really-all-that-steep driveway.  The wintry mix-y Christmapocolypse-ness of it all ensured that her tiny Honda with no traction would NOT be making it up the hill without the intervention of a few dieties or a demon.  Or, as it turns out, a neighbor with towing capacity.

SO Meg and I were sitting at the bar, enjoying a bit of a drinkiepoo, when Mom called.  Dad had no luck getting her car up the driveway, and when he tried, it did a 180 in the middle — not a fun trick on ice, when one side of the slim driveway is a fairly steep dropoff.  Whoops!  So somehow he got it back down.  What next, he thought?

He drove his truck down the driveway and chained Mom’s car to it.  But not correctly, apparently, as the chain snapped off when the truck was about halfway up.  Whoops.

So then what happened?  Well, there were TWO cars stuck at the bottom of the driveway, and time was creeping along, and it was still fucking snowing, even!

Mom had been in contact with me all evening.  By this time, Meg and I had each had a glass of wine and shared an appetizer, and the three of us — Mom still an hour south with the rest of the family, Meg and I north at the restaurant near the church —  concluded that the family would NOT be joining us.  SO we split some risotto and ate salad, talked about dieting and pretty much drank a bottle of wine.

Then, we hauled ass through the inclement weather to the abandoned church building.  One of the best things about the blizzard was the quiet — standing outside the church, you heard very little but the intense blanket of quiet snowfall.  Attendance was slim at both services, of course, because the general population of attendees couldn’t shovel themselves out of their driveway and slick their Buicks the three blocks down the hill to the parking lot.

Meg clarinetted and I descanted and we generally had a passable time praising the Lord.  One of our best moments came at the end of service, when my organist went ahead and did her traditional Joy to the World modulation – up a half step between each of the four verses.  This, of course, puts my descant in the stratosphere, and forces Meg to transpose from the original key of the LBW not just the usual interval, no, ALSO another half-step, in her head.  Huzzah!

Oh and then of course, my organist didn’t just plain old take half steps, for which we were prepared.  She did something appropriately wackadoo, like a whole step and then a half step and then another whole step.  It was a surprise!  The anticipation was tremendous. WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NEXT, LADY?

Anyhow, between services, we intended to go and get a drink.  But of course, by the time we got out of the church, everybody was closed up tight.  We couldn’t even get decent service at Denny’s.  At least Tiffany had the courtesy not to charge us for our crappy, burnt coffees while we waited an hour for a banana split that never came.  Long time ago, in Bethlehem, I just wanted some goddamn ice cream.

So then I had to go pick up our organist, ’cause she’s simply too tottery to drive on the ice rink that was the network of roads.  Got her!  Awesome.  Second service!  Done.  Got the organist home!  Mission accomplished.  And then Meg and I finally, hours and hours and hours later, without even the cushion of a hazy buzz to support us, headed back home.

The evening had started off really well, with that bottle of wine and our mutual enjoyment of each other’s company.  Laughter!  Glee!  But then of course, all that church, and the drag of the time between services, and then MORE church, and no ice cream, then all that extra driving… it just got worse and worse.  When we finally left the organist in her driveway, I realized how desperate an haunted I was beginning to feel.  And, of course, I was anticipating dropping Meg off and then driving a further forty minutes back to my place.  It sucks to be a musician at Christmas. So my mood was progressively darkening from azure to indigo.

But when we got back to Meg’s folks’ place, their cheery, warm home brightened me immediately.  You can imagine the almost overpowering sense of joyous relief I then felt when those wonderful, laudable people, her parents – friends of mine in their own right – invited me to stay the night.  My god, I was nothing but thrilled to consent.  We ate wontons and several kinds of cheese and delicious, oniony-sweet beef stew with crusty bread.  We drank wine and mocked the Pope on television.  I borrowed an old pair of red fleecy snowflake pajamas and had a sense of Christmassy contentment theretofore unknown.

The next morning, I woke up sweaty in not-my bed, in a pair of not-my pajamas, to the unmistakable sounds of domestic discord.  The next-door neighbors were exchanging the gifts of “Fuck you!” to celebrate the birth of the Jesus. I burst out laughing.  I have never had a Christmas that has felt so adult.

Merry fucking Christmas to all of you.  Especially you.


2 Responses to “Tradition? I SNOW on your tradition.”

  1. Neelia Says:

    Good story. I like it.

  2. yvanka Says:

    Thanks. I like it too.

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