Martin had his annual Lucia-slash-Christmas family service this morning where his music play group gathered with their fondly smiling parents and various siblings and relatives at the village congregation house. He opted for the stylish gingerbread man outfit, complete with floppy hat, and along with a group of mostly girls dressed in white with red ribbon sashes about their waists and plastic battery-driven candle crowns on their heads, plus a couple of boys dressed as Santa, they proceeded up the aisle singing "Sankta Lucia" and arranged themselves in 2 rows in front of the alter.
In the middle of the 2nd song, his little face suddenly disappeared from the back row and reappeared a second later coming around the end of the row, head down, trying not to cry and headed straight for my lap. He sat with me for a second and I asked him if he was okay. "I'm embarrassed!" he whispered, "There are too many people!!" He sat with Farmor after that, but refused point-blank to return to the stage. Poor kid! Stage fright has never been a problem for him before, but this time it knocked him flat.
Then I drove to Malmö and sang in FIVE Christmas concerts, one right after the other, bam-bam-bam-bam-BAM. That last bam was the sound of my feet falling off after 2.5 hours of standing and singing. We performed at 3 different elderly care homes, twice at 2 of them, a half hour set at each stop, to audiences ranging from 7 to 20 people, the majority of whom were strapped into wheelchairs. Some of them sang creakily along or tapped their feet and applauded after each song. Some of them stared vacantly off into space and appeared not to realize anyone else was even in the room with them. Some of them stared unblinking at us for the entire half hour with no expression. A couple of them made horrible hacking coughing noises at unexpected moments. And some of them shut their eyes and wept.
I don't know if they were crying because we were singing for them or because it was beautiful music or because they were thinking of other Christmas memories.
A line in one of the traditional Swedish Christmas hymns we sang goes like this: Stjärnan från Betlehem leder ej bort men hem. The star from Bethlehem leads not away but home. I recognized a few of the old ladies and gentlemen in a couple of the audiences from our concerts there in the spring and last Christmas. I wonder if I'll know next time if their faces are missing.