Hush-A-Bye Wink-A-Bye Doo: Holiday Memories

 Red is the color of Santa’s sleigh,

Green are the pine trees along the way,

Gold is the sunshine on Christmas Day…

Hush-a-bye, wink-a-bye, doo…

Thus began a Christmas song at what was my first or second grade concert at McNulty School. I had been nabbed to sing the opening solo line due to my stellar coloratura (to be fair, I think it was my shiny bangs that won me the hardly-coveted role, but whatever). At that moment in time, I wasn’t afraid of audiences or watchful eyes, so when we performed it to a gymnasium filled with grades 1-6, I sang my little heart out. There was no shame in my game yet, and the world had not yet enforced any on me. It was probably the last time I’d feel such wonderful freedom.

I forget who was tapped to sing the second pine trees verse (I’m pretty sure it was Lynn or Laura) but I distinctly remember that the sunshine line went rather ill-fittingly to a girl named Crystal, who had a perpetual snarl on her scowling face, and who was never very nice to me. Sunshine my ass. For Christmas, however, I did my best to suspend such evil thoughts, trying hard to put myself in Crystal’s shoes and seeking out some silver lining in her otherwise-awful countenance. Whenever I think ill of someone, I try to picture them at their happiest, with a grand smile betraying some hidden joy they find in the world, and it’s a little more difficult to think badly of them. A little. When she sang her sunshine line, wearing a skirt that was two sizes too big for her, I realized that she probably didn’t have as lucky a life as I did, and I started taking her snarl and her coldness not as a personal affront, but as the way she had to deal with an unfair world. It was the closest I could get to humane holiday behavior, and as we stood up before the entire school, I wanted to protect her – and to protect us – as a united front.

Those holiday concerts were the last time I felt comfortable in front of an audience. I had already started to “act” stereotypically gay (a lisp – cured by the application of peanut butter to the roof of my mouth by the linguistic teacher – didn’t help) and my over-the-top theatrics during these holiday shows must have been met with cringes by more than a few parents. I didn’t notice then, but I would see it soon enough.

On that day, I was just singing, ‘Red is the color of Santa’s sleigh’ and holding up a little wooden sled painted in red. I was trying to make my peace with a crabby girl named Crystal. Most of all, I was looking forward to the coziness and warmth that Christmas always brought.

This year’s holiday season is just getting underway, and I’m already feeling the excitement. No more Scrooge theatrics – I’m going to enjoy it from start to finish.

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