Christmas is about music.
My favorite Christmas traditions include–evolve around, really–music. And one Christmas carol in particular, the peaceful lullaby, Silent Night. Over and over again, year after year, I’ve asked my Mom to come and play an arrangement at church during the month of December. She’s played with me in a Relief Society meeting and in Sacrament meetings. I feel like ward members are unsuspecting suspects of the incredible calm and spirit of peace that are about to float down on them and envelope them in Christmas warmth. Listening to my mom play the violin is therapeutic.
I remember many times, growing up, listening to her play with her own mom, Grandma DeeDee, accompanying her. This was my childhood: listening to mom and grandma play beautiful arrangements. I loved listening to them, and I took their incredible talents for granted. I just didn’t know. But sitting in the living room, listening to them practice Dvorak’s Songs my Mother Taught Me has become a part of my heart.
Grandma DeeDee also plays Silent Night. Her arrangement is a piano solo. Years ago, she sat with me at the piano, with my own copy of the music, and wrote her secrets on it. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I love this particular Christmas carol the most. Both my mom and my grandma have taken arrangements and made their own additions, writing additional notes in, cutting and pasting even, to make them their very own.
Mom played with me in my ward this year. When I sat down at the piano in the chapel, I realized that grand piano keys are not the same size as the little, skinny keys of my piano at home. I think I held my breath for the first half of the piece while my fingers tried to adjust their muscle memory to the new width. Nobody really noticed, though. They were all listening to the beautiful violin. So was I.
Grandma DeeDee played at the family Christmas party. She plays it almost every year (arthritic fingers allowing). I loved it when we were kids, crowded into her living room, dim lights, listening to her chiming the bells, chromatically playing Silent Night, and sending us out the door into the snow with her love. This year, I wasn’t sitting in the living room, I was behind the curtains on the stage, cleaning up costumes. I regret it. I should have left the mess.
We had the party at a ward because there are so many of us now. We ate corn dogs and salads, we saw family in town for the holidays, and then it was time for the little pageant with her great grandchildren. Grandma put me in charge of this every year and every year, I am sure that it will be a flop, but every year, the kids are adorable in their makeshift costumes, sitting on stage for a short script reminding us of the story from the Bible.
After the kids were done, they all ran backstage, we closed the curtains, and their costumes landed in heaps as they ran off to play. I started sorting through them, putting them in the box or the bag. I didn’t want to lose things so I had to get it done right then, right? For some reason, I felt some immediacy to sorting the mess so when I heard the piano sounds of Grandma playing, when they came slightly muffled through the thick curtains, I only half listened.
Grandma is 98. Did I mention that?
Last year, one of my mom’s cousins took a video of her playing at their family party. He shared it on YouTube so I can embed it and share it here. Listening through the computer isn’t the same as listening while curled up in her warm living room, but I can’t invite you to the family parties of my past.
Next year, I’m going to drop everything to sit at Grandma’s feet and listen to her play.