Friday, December 3, 2010

Two Things on my Mind

Singing and scones.  First, singing.  I just listened to Chanticleer singing "O Come, O Come Immanuel" on the radio.  It was ethereal and transcendent.  Yet again I wished I had a great singing voice.  To be able to open your mouth and produce a sweet, piercing sound that makes people's eyes well up would be to me a truly magical power.  Like beauty, a great voice is something you either have or you don't.  No amount of hard work will ever produce golden tones.

I remember a girl I knew in college; she lived on my floor in my freshman dorm.  I don't even remember her name now.  But I remember her voice.  A group of us would sit around on the floor late at nights, smoke cigarettes, and sing folk songs, and her voice rose above the others like pure silver.  I so much wanted to be able to do what she did so effortlessly, but it was not to be.  The only singing I've ever done is to my kids when they were small, and I even put an end to that when my then-two-year old daughter looked up at me pleadingly and said, "Mommy, don't sing."  Everyone's a critic.


I have a perfect Christmas memory.  (Actually, I have many, but here's one.)  I once lived in Canada where there was a village untouched by commercialism and the tourist onslaught that later devoured it.  There was a main street that ran along a canal, with a bridge at one end and an old mill with a waterwheel at the other.  The buildings were all made of stone, weathered by centuries of northern winters.  In them were shops that sold wooden toys imported from Scandanavia or handmade candles and wooly mitts or beer from anywhere in the world.  There was a tea shop, run by two Scottish grannies, that was a welcome refuge from the cold, the leaden skies, and an afternoon of shopping.  The wood floor creaked comfortingly, a fireplace crackled with warmth and light, and tea was served in giant pots engulfed in tea cozies.  The scones came with clotted cream and strawberry jam, homemade of course.

The tea shop was not  a twee imitation concocted by marketers but a plain and simple place where everything seemed about a hundred years old, the leaded windows still held the wavy glass of earlier times, and the Scottish accents of the ladies whose domain this was took you quite out of yourself.  They understand comfort in the British Isles.  Sitting in that tea shop all those years ago, with a good friend and our two babies, drinking endless cups of tea while the babies dozed in their strollers and we ordered another round of scones--it WAS Christmas--I couldn't imagine that anything in my life would ever go wrong.

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