I'm not one of those people who eagerly overlook Thanksgiving in my rush to charge headlong into Christmas. But there will only be two more installments of my TALES FROM THE BAYOU series and I would be remiss not to include my Christmas celebrations when I was growing up.
Every Christmas for as long as I can remember the church pictured above was part of the holiday scenery. At one time you could wind up the music box and as Christmas music would play the doors would slowly open to reveal the lighted scene inside.
I was absolutely fascinated with that church and every night before I went to bed I would wind it up over and over again for as long as Mother would allow me to play it. My nose was almost pressed against the doors in anticipation of the beauty I would find inside and once the doors closed at the end of the song, I would eagerly await for the magic to begin all over again.
I also never claimed to be a fabulous singer but I can hold a bit of a tune and growing up I could always find a spot in my church's Christmas pageant. While my mother wasn't particularly religious, she did believe in God and encouraged us to attend church each Sunday even while she remained home. But she always attended the holiday festivities to watch her children perform in the pageants. I'm sure she will correct me if my memory is fuzzy but I seem to remember Janet attended the sheep in the Nativity but I don't remember what my other siblings might have been. For myself, one year I was the heavenly angel shining down on the child in the manager. I remember thinking the wings they put on me were pretty uncomfortable to wear but even worse was the fact I had to stretch out my arms above my head in a circle and was expected to hold them in that position for the entire play.
Needless to say, my six year old arms weren't strong enough to do that and every time I would drop my arms there was a pair of unforgiving eyes staring at me from beyond the curtains, reminding me "angels" lifted their arms in joyous praise and I'd better do the same!
But there was one song for me that heralded the Christmas season. I would walk around all day long constantly singing "Away In The Manager" until my family couldn't stand it any more and told me to be quiet. One Christmas when I was fighting my usual bout of laryngitis the doctor told my mother that I wasn't allowed to try and talk as my vocal chords were inflamed. My mother took that to heart and forbade me to do ANY singing until I was well. What she never found out was the fact whenever she was out of the room and I lay in my bed sick, I continued to whisper-sing the words to that song. There was just something about the vision of anyone loving me so much they would watch over me long after they were gone that brought comfort to a shy six year old and NO ONE was going to stop me from singing that song!
I got well, despite the additional strain on my vocal chords, and I can still wind up that little church to hear those melodies from my childhood. Those Christmases in the swamps of southern Louisiana will always hold a special place in my heart this time of year...