Saturday, December 24, 2011

From the Archives: The Singing Man

The following post was written in 2007, when we were living temporarily in an upstairs apartment at the corner of the main intersection of the little Currier and Ives town of Corvallis, Montana, kitty-corner from the town's high school. Although I was raised a city girl, I had lived in the empty quiet of the country for several years prior, and it was a big change to live above a street corner--particularly one with the high school on one side and a bar a few doors down, inviting loitering teenagers and semi-sober townsfolk to come and go at all hours--most of them, it seemed, in old pick-up trucks in need of mufflers. It took awhile to become accustomed to the normal noises of the little town, but eventually we were able to sleep through most of it quite well. One night at Christmas-time, however, a different sound floated up to my corner window--a sound I'd never heard before:

I had trouble falling asleep last night. A lovely afternoon nap is partly to blame. I don't do well with long naps. But just as I was about to finally drift off, the singing came.

I couldn't make sense of what I was hearing at first. I thought maybe someone was sitting in a car with the music turned up, but I hadn't heard a car approach and couldn't detect the hum of an idling engine. Plus, the song was inconsistent, sometimes softer, sometimes louder, sometimes stopping altogether--and it didn't sound very radio-ish. Curiosity got the best of me and I got up to look out the window.

An old man on a bicycle was stopped on the sidewalk in front of the high school, staring at the huge lighted Christmas tree on the lawn. He was bundled against the cold in a heavy wool coat and red and black plaid cap with ear flaps. His head was tipped back and he was singing Christmas carols. The First Noel. Joy to the World. His deep voice wandered off key occasionally and sometimes stopped in the middle of a line only to pick up again a few words later.

I assumed he was drunk at first, and chuckled at the funny sight. But then he climbed back up on the seat of his bicycle and rode away...in a perfectly straight line. I watched the blinking tail light disappear as he rode slowly down the street.

I climbed back under the covers, but was suddenly wide awake, my mind fully engaged as I pondered what I had seen. Who was this singing man? Why had he ridden his bicycle at midnight in the cold to come and sing, alone, at the foot of the school Christmas tree? Why?

Ten minutes later, he was back. I could hear the singing again from the same place, the same voice. I didn't get up this time, but I wondered at it all. And I prayed for the singing man.

Today is Christmas Eve, 2011. I am back at my own house in the country now, enjoying the stillness and the silence. The ice lanterns I so love to make every winter flicker their light into the darkness from their post on front steps. A doe occasionally strolls through the yard and I wonder if she gazes into the glowing windows at the family gathered there, laughing and enjoying one another (made even better this week with Andy's sister, Ruth, and her husband, Benny, here for Christmas--yay!) The dogs frolic in the snow and I see them pause to lift their noses toward the wonderful smells coming from my tiny kitchen. It seems something has been simmering on the stove or baking in the oven around the clock for the last week. I do love our simple Christmases in the country.

But I still think of the Singing Man and I wonder about him. I hope he is warm and fed tonight. I hope he has someone with whom to share Christmas--and beyond. Thinking of him reminds me to pray for those who do not have the same joys I do in life.

God bless us, every one.

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