’Tis the season for Christmas shows and concerts of all types, in all venues for all people. My lovely wife, Lisa, and I observed a Yuletide tradition this week by spending an evening at a Decatur venue listening to Sunny Sweeney and her friends sing about their families’ dysfunctional Christmases. I cannot tell you the name of the couple that attends this social event with us each year because he was supposed to be somewhere else Wednesday night.
Sunny was joined on stage by her longtime friends and singing partners, Brennan Lee and Erin Enderlin. The trio of beautiful ladies let one lucky guy sit in with them and play the devil out of his guitar. I didn’t catch his name.
But these folks played real country music. Three chords and the truth. They were really, really good and had some great original songs that I wish I could hear on the radio. I’m not real sure why I can’t, except I think money buys radio time, and I guess they aren’t hooked up with the right people with the right amount of money.
But I’ll say this. I had been in the hospital most of the day having an unpleasant medical procedure and showed up at their concert deeply ensconced in my own little pity party. Five minutes in I was smiling and laughing and by the time they finished I didn’t have a care in the world.
That’s what these Christmas programs are supposed to do for us, don’t you know? Get our minds off ourselves and our souls in the Christmas spirit. If you can do that with a song titled “Oh, $#@%, I shot Santa,” more power to you.
All of the Christmas programs and shows and cantatas and whatnot hold a special place in my heart. The first of these performances I was ever aware of was the Christmas tree program at the Porterdale Gym, to which I was introduced the first Christmas after I saw the light of day. It was THE highlight of the Christmas season for all us little linthead children when I was coming up.
It was always held on the last day that school was in session and marked the beginning of Christmas, which lasted about five days back then, instead of 50. The tree was huge — 40 feet high — and covered with thousands of bright lights — and boxes of fruit and candy and nuts were stacked up around it like a giant wall.
But before each child got to go down and pick up their box of fruit, which was all the Christmas some of those children would know, each class sang a carol, which they had practiced singing for weeks. Thank goodness testing didn’t drive the curriculum at Porterdale School in the 1950s or I would have missed many of the precious memories of my life.
When I was in the fifth grade our principal, Miss Jordy Tanner, decided that she was going to take over the preparation for the Christmas program that year. For some reason Miss Jordy didn’t want to be a principal that winter. She apparently wanted to be a maestro and she took the program way too seriously. She would come down hard on us when we messed up, and we messed up a lot. Our song that year was “The First Noel,” and I remember Miss Jordy having a conniption fit when we didn’t remember to sing “the angel did say” instead of “angels.” That seemed to upset her a lot.
Now honesty compels me to admit that I couldn’t sing very well, but I was enthusiastic and loved making a joyful noise at Christmas time. It was a joyful noise to me, understand, and hopefully to the Lord. To Jordy Tanner, not so much. She kept telling me to sing softer and sing softer and finally she told me that I couldn’t sing at all. While the other fifth-graders were practicing for the program every day, Miss Tanner put me and one other child, a little girl who had a speech impediment, in her office and we watched “I Love Lucy” and “The Real McCoys” reruns while the rest of the class was rehearsing for the big show.
I was too embarrassed to tell my parents. That was 1962. If that happened in 2019 my parents would have owned Porterdale School.
It all worked out, though. I got to watch some funny old television shows and the afternoon of the Christmas Tree program Miss Tanner allowed my friend and me to sit with the class for the show if we promised to only mouth the words.
We both sang as loud as our little hearts would let us. We said “angels,” too, instead of just one “angel.”
Merry Christmas, y’all. Go find a pageant to attend. And if you have any pull on the radio, tell them Huck said they ought to be playing Sunny and Brennan and Erin.