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By Staff | Dec 16, 2016

The Christmas season is a wonderful time of year. There are the wondrous aromas of good things cooking, the look of wonder in kids’ eyes as they contemplate all the loot that Santa might bring and parents wondering how they’re going to pay for everything.

This is also the season when I wonder where all the spam comes from. And no, I don’t mean the delicious pork product that has the same geometric proportions as a Lego block. I’m talking about odious email spam.

How many spam trees were felled to tell me about those Black Friday bargains? How many wild spams were hunted, killed and skinned to inform me of the secrets which, in my opinion, Victoria should just keep to herself?

Christmastime was simpler when I was a youngster. All I had to do during the run-up to Yuletide was attend choir practice in preparation for the Christmas concert at First Lutheran Church and for a similar event held at our school.

The idea of learning how to sing all those Christmas songs might have seemed overwhelming to an ordinary kid. But I wasn’t a normal (in fact, I often heard myself referred to as abnormal) kid, so the matter was of little concern to me.

Why? Because at an early age I discovered that I had zero singing abilities. Were my singing judged on a scale of one to 10, it would rate a minus-17.

Possessing this knowledge was tremendously liberating. I knew that if I sang along with the choir, the overall quality of the music produced would be reduced. As such, I chose not to sing and spared a lot of people a lot of suffering.

My lip-synching was a mercy for my schoolmates and our audience.

Our choir directors believed that everyone should participate. This policy of enforced equality was ill-advised. You wouldn’t put a penguin on a pole-vaulting team, would you?

Similarly, a person whose singing is worse than that of a duck with laryngitis shouldn’t be forced to be part of a choir.

But our choir directors, who seemed to have a sadistic bent for embarrassing kids, would stop in the middle of practice and demand that each choir member perform a solo. When my turn to sing came, the choir director would wrinkle her nose in a way that reminded me of someone who had just stepped on a incontinent skunk.

“That’s OK, honey,” the choir director would say, “You keep on trying.”

I took this as tacit permission to continue with my lip-synching charade. I was happy to do so and the choir sounded leagues better. Everybody won.

I grew up and got married and my wife and I had two sons of our own. In keeping with venerable Yule time tradition, they sang in Christmas choirs. The key difference between our boys and me is that they actually have some musical ability.

Paul, our eldest, took piano lessons during his grade school years, so we purchased an old upright piano for him to practice on. We never knew when Paul might randomly sit at the piano and begin playing. Anything from “Jingle Bells” to “For Elise” could come pouring out of the piano at any given moment.

Whenever Paul made a mistake he would stop playing, stare at the sheet music, reposition his fingers on the keyboard and mutter, “Oh, boy. Look out. Here we go.” This happened so often, it now seems as if something is amiss if we don’t hear “Here we go,” scattered throughout Christmas tunes.

One December when our boys were youngsters, we borrowed a portable VHS camera to tape their Christmas concert. This proves two things.

The first is that I was one of those annoying parents who sat in the pew and blocked others’ views with a video camera that was the size of a Humvee. The second is that our boys actually enjoyed singing with the choir.

You can tell because the camera caught their distinctively chirpy little voices chirping along to “Away in the Manger” and “Jolly Old St. Nicolas.”

The camera also captured other things, such as a little girl in the front row who was so fascinated with her new Christmas dress that she kept pulling up its skirt and showing everyone her new Christmas tights.

One particular lad in the kindergarten choir had no discernible singing abilities. But what he lacked in talent he made up for with volume and enthusiasm. He sing-shouted his way through the concert with such gusto that some of his choir mates had to plug their ears with their fingers.

What a wonderful performance. I couldn’t have done any better myself.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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