Surprise – It’s Tradition

Teaching plus rehearsing for the concert coming up on Saturday and Sunday is leaving precious little time for anything else, including remembering to stock up on ibruprofen and immune system support before leaving the house, which explains why I was standing in the checkout line at Walgreens on Frankfort Avenue before rehearsal with a bottle of ibuprofen and a bottle of Airborne in hand listening to the music on the loudspeaker, and all of a sudden catching the strains of “That’s Christmas to Me” by Pentatonix, which I had never heard before although I evidently could have, and which, for whatever reason – maybe the uniquely garish lighting at Walgreen’s in conjunction with the plaintive lyrics and the harmonies and the fleeting reference to mom and dad … or maybe something else … still,

I managed not to cry in front of the cashier, mainly because the cashier at register two came on over the loudspeaker and called for backup right then, and broke the mood.

And as providence would have it, one of the tenors needed ibuprofen, too.

But the whole thing reminded me of a day in Advent something like 40 years ago, another Walgreen’s, another town, another song – one that seemed to have touched a place in my subconscious so unexpected that I had to stand in the perfume-and-personal-care aisle and try to connect the tune with the lyrics, and to understand why I had been hijacked and reduced to a puddle of tears on the way to buy cigarettes. Another life, another person, almost. Someone who could still call her mom on the phone, and would, and tell her about it, and hear her say, “we used to sing that song a lot in church … I can see why it would make you cry.” It became one of those early warning signs that you could take the girl out of the church but not the church out of the girl.

As providence would have it, maybe.

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