Tag Archives: Midnight Mass

Christmas a few years later

A little while ago I was listening to some music being streamed by Amazon Music when I heard a song that took me back to the early days of guitars in church.  At least in Catholic churches.  My sister learned to play a guitar first, teaching herself.  I had always wanted to learn so then she taught me.  And she signed us up to play Sunday Mass at a local church.  It was a small one, almost a mission church, and with MEG at the front I was happy to try it.

I think it was about 1971, Meg and I were going to make the Midnight Mass something special that year.  We enlisted some of the kids in the congregation and even a few adults to help out in the new group we had formed.  For weeks we practiced for that Mass.  We were all psyched up for something great.

In the meantime our sister from out of state came home for Christmas, bringing a guest with her.  A very unwelcome guest as it turned out.  Naturally we all went in to mom’s house to welcome her home and hear all the latest news from her part of the country, as well as to have our favorite food.  Mom had been cooking for a while getting everything ready for Christmas dinner, but we were allowed to sample the brown and serve rolls, homemade, of course from an old recipe still in the family today.  The caramels were brought out, as well as pecan pie and the cake of the day, orange slice cake I think.  We spent several hours catching up as all the family who lived away came home one by one, or family by family.

All was well for a couple of days.  With Meg doing the high sounds and playing lead guitar I didn’t have a worry in the world.  Christmas Eve finally arrived and I took a nap so I would be wide awake for Midnight Mass.   I also went over some of the songs to be sure I would remember the tunes.  It’s amazing how easy it is to forget the music to Silent Night when you are nervous.  I didn’t worry much though because Meg would be there.  She has the talent.  She has the skill.  She can make a guitar speak.  Nothing to worry about.

Oh yeah?  The hammer fell late in the afternoon when Meg called.  Her voice barely above a whisper, tears in her words, she broke the news.  Smc’s guest had reared it’s ugly face.  Everyone at Mom’s house had the flu!  Including and especially Meg!  I had to be the lead at Midnight Mass.

The big problem for me is that I can’t hit the high notes in Christmas carols, and they all have high notes. Some go from the basement to the sky in the same work. I’m an alto or at best second soprano. And I had to lead the singing? But Meg reminded me that a few of the kids in the new group had great voices that could hit those notes, so all I had to do was get them assembled and started. HA!

Time arrived and most of the kids sat back down when I told them Meg wouldn’t be there and it was up to us. So there I was, all alone behind the microphone, guitar shaking in my hands, popping lozenges to keep my mouth moist each time it dried out. Father gave the signal, he was ready to begin. In a quavering voice I began the opening procession, “O Come, O Come Emanuel “. Father sang along, and as fear took over my voice became higher and higher and all of a sudden I was hitting those notes Even the highest ones were hit spot on. My group began to form around me and it happened! Our very own Christmas miracle. I had never before done that, and I never have again but that night the angels were helping out and we formed a heavenly choir.

When Mass was over there were so many people gathered around to congratulate us, and the statement I heard most was “I didn’t know you could sing like that!” I could only tell them it was news to me also, but it’s amazing what fear can do for the human voice.

So, I never heard animals talk, but that night I heard angels singing right there in that little mission church. Joy To The World! And Alleluia.

Oh, the song that made me remember that night is “Lord, Teach Us to Pray” by Joe Wise. He’s on UTube, but I wasn’t able to put it on here. Just not that good at doing things on the computer.


Back to highway 81T

Once again in my memory I am back at that white stucco house just down the road from my grandparents and it is Christmas Eve. The baking and candy making is finished, we have prayed the rosary while trying to remain awake until it is over, and most of us are in bed. And the memories begin.

A week or so before Christmas dad would load us all in the old ’39 Ford and we would go out to the backroads in search of the perfect tree. It was always a cedar and that is the smell I most associate with Christmas. The cedars grew wild around the creek and dad knew every back road in the county. We would stop several times to check out the stands of cedars we passed, usually finding something wrong with them all in the beginning. After a while we were feeling the effects of an overpacked car and weren’t so critical. Mom always had the last word on them but we all piled out to stretch and give opinions. Dad would cut the winner down and tie it on top of the old car and we piled in again. we each had our own place with T. up front between Mom and Dad, I would be lying in the recessed area where the back window met the trunk, and the rest were elbowing each other for more space in the back seat.

Back at home the tree was taken down and carried into the enclosed back porch to be put in the tree stand we had used from the beginning of time, a large pan would be filled with water and the tree placed carefully into that pan to drink it’s fill. Mother would already have the ornaments and tinsel out *{we called them icicles}. Dad would then check the lights to see which ones needed replacing before stringing them on the tree. It was always the same, the lights first, then the ornaments placed carefully on appropriate branches, then always be moved to different areas by Mother who had strict rules about trimming a tree. Small ornaments on the flimsy top and heavier ones at the bottom. Then each icicle was separated from the rest and carefully put in their places until the tree was just about perfect. Cedars, not being very large here drooped if too much heavy stuff was at the top and since we all had our favorites.= in place. The icicles, used each year until they were too old to care about, had been taken off the year before, one at a time of course, and carefully draped across a piece of cardboard mother had salvaged and it was a simple matter to place them on the tree separately. It paid off in the rippling effect on our windows.

The lights always looked enormous to me with a glow radiating out of each one until they ran together in their beauty. For me they ran together a little bit more each year. I don’t know how old I was when my vision began blurring but it seemed so natural that none of us ever really noticed it. One of my teacher finally realized something was wrong when she would write test questions out on the blackboard and we would copy the questions and then answer them on our paper. She told Mother that I was getting the answers right, but I was not getting the questions she wrote on the board correct. I did get credit for the answers, but I also got an appointment with the optometrist. He told Mother he was surprised I hadn’t been hit by a bus because I couldn’t see the tip of my nose clearly. So just before Christmas when I was in 8th grade I got my first pair of glasses. It made a huge difference, but the lights on the tree just weren’t as pretty. So, to this day I remove my glasses when I am looking at the lights and marvel at how beautiful they are, all those radiant globes with the rays running together.

But I digress. After the tree was trimmed we had eggnog and cookies before being sent to bed. Of course as we got older our bedtimes were later and sometimes we even helped Santa place the gifts under the tree. None of them were wrapped in those days, but each child had a mound of items of our own. And we always got an orange, an apple and a banana, things that weren’t on our menu very often.

As we got older we would go to Midnight Mass, something I always loved to do. I sang in the choir and usually one or more of my brothers would be the servers. Mass in those days was in Latin, and I think we all learned the English translation of the comforting old prayers. Home from Mass we were each treated to a small glass of wine. Mogan David wine to be exact. It was a long time before I discovered that there were much better wines in this world, but not being much of a wine drinker I didn’t get the same thrill from sampling new and different vintages the rest of the grown family enjoyed. To me Champaign tastes like stale beer..

Morning came early when the younger children woke us all (okay, so for a few years I was one of them), and we would then gather in the living room to see what Santa left for us.

Dinner would be in the oven, usually a fat hen from our henhouse, and Mother’s dressing, made from biscuits we baked for breakfast that morning. She knew just how to season it and it is still one of my favorite things. I learned how to make dumplings a few years later and would always make a huge bowl of them, huge in spite of the fact that all of the boys were vying for first in line as official taste testers. Mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, peas, cranberry sauce, fruit salad and the brown and serve rolls Mom made only for special occasions rounded out the meal with jam cake for dessert in the beginning, then the applesauce cake I had found a recipe for, and finally the orange slice cake mother got a recipe from someone for.\

And now that I have done the menu I’m beginning to want something to eat! So, even though it’s late at night I’m about to raid the fridge and then hit the sack! And here in my part of Kentucky, it is 11:30 p.m. so in half an hour it will officially be Christmas in Owensboro and surrounding areas.

Merry Christmas, everyone!