In our town, like most towns, the stores have been preparing us for Christmas since the day after Halloween. At our house, though, we've been in the holiday spirit since Labor Day. As it turns out, one of the funnier quirks of our international student, Faisal, is that he came to America really enamored of the song Jingle Bells. He says he thinks it is a nice American song, and he has dozens of versions of it (complete with video) on his iPhone. Some of these are traditional versions, some have synthesizers or electric guitar; there's the obligatory dogs-barking version, and even a kinda scary techno version complete with little girls dancing around waving pom-poms.
The dynamic between Eva and Faisal is pretty cute to begin with, but the two of them have really bonded over Jingle Bells. Every morning when Faisal comes upstairs for breakfast, Eva greets him with, "Morning, Faisal. I need Gingle Balls." And in his very agreeable way, Faisal always says "Okay, no problem," and pulls it up for her. We spend most of breakfast and the drive to Faisal's school listening to versions of Jingle Bells, and then we repeat the whole scenario again when Faisal comes home in the afternoon. One night in September, as we were driving home from dinner at a Mexican restaurant, with Faisal and the kids in the back seat all laughing at some "Gingle Balls" video, Kyle said to me, "We're a strange little family, aren't we?"
The other thing that has kept the holiday season in all of our minds this fall has been preparations for the Christmas programs at our church. Daniel and Eva are both going to take part in the children's program, with Eva reprising Daniel's cow role from last year and Daniel stepping up to play Joseph this year. As would any wise children's program director, ours started rehearsals the first week of September. We have been listening to the CD with all the songs to be performed over and over and over in the car for the past few months.
Today all their practices culminated in a dress rehearsal. Now, I was told that Daniel has been chosen for the role of Joseph because he is good at following directions, but not quite as good at remembering to sing or dance during performances. His only major job is to stand in the spotlight and lift the baby Jesus into the air for all the shepherds and angels to see during one of the songs. Today at the dress rehearsal he wasn't feeling very well, but if it was any indication of how the real show will go we are going to need to work on not: (a) dropping the baby Jesus, (b) holding the baby Jesus head-down by the legs, or (c) using the baby Jesus to wipe Joseph's nose.
As for Eva, she wore her cow costume, sat on the stage, and silently drank milk (ironically) from her straw cup. At the finale of the show, when Mary and Joseph stand at the front center of the stage, that little cow wandered up next to them and insisted on holding the baby. I'm hoping that this was because I was the stand-in for Mary today, and that she'll stay in her spot for the real thing. Really, though, for a two-year old, staying on stage is my only real expectation.
My contribution (other than being a Mary stand-in) is to participate in the adult Christmas Cantata. We have also been rehearsing for quite a while, which is good for me considering my level of singing experience. I thought it would be a fun challenge, though, and I've enjoyed having a "thing" of my own. I've been working really hard at standing near good, loud altos who are able to read music at each rehearsal. I'm hoping I can just hold up my part of the singing. Really, though, for a thirty-three-year old who hasn't sung in public since junior high school, staying on stage is my only real expectation.