The voice on the phone sounded like a squeaky mouse who had swallowed a large amount of sandpaper and gravel.
“Jan… This is Mildred. I can’t make it to practice for the caroling we’re scheduled to do for the shut-ins on Friday.”
She was my tenth caller so far. I crossed off her name. Pretty soon the whole list would have checked-in; or checked-out.
“Oh Millie, you poor thing. You sound just awful.”
I have found when folks are ill, they need a dollop of sympathy, but she surprised me.
“Well, actually…I don’t feel that sick. I just can’t talk much above a whisper and it’s getting worse. Tom has the same throat thing.
“We have two more days,” I assured her, “and if you still can’t sing, you can simply move your mouth up and down. We need warm bodies. I can play a tape we’ve done before.”
After several more of my carolers called to cancel, I rummaged through the pile of outdated cassettes my four year old had been using as building blocks. I had given him my old karaoke machine to use for some cute little songs we had found at a garage sale. He loved to sing-along with his favorite cartoon characters.
“Ah hah,” I yelled to the dog, who had been watching my treasure hunt with a bit of confusion, “Here it is…the seasonal crooning of the First Church choir from two years ago. We’ll just play this recorded musical history and move our lips. Who’ll ever know?”
Rover looked at me in what I considered complete disbelief. In reality, he probably was wondering what was for supper.
“Here’s the thing” I continued to explain to my over-grown canine as he padded into the kitchen behind me, acting like he was listening, “We’ll have candles, and with it being dark and maybe snowing a little, no one can tell if we’re making a current joyful noise, or a taped one.”
The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was to try to keep the expected annual event going, especially with nearly the whole town sick with the flu. As the idea took on a life of its own, I even planned to use non-singers if necessary. After all, in the dark, and with candles…
Friday evening arrived so fast I barely had time to pull this charade together, and certainly no time to practice. My skeleton crew of choral troopers would do fine. They knew the music by heart. We sang it every year.
Mildred and Tom, willing partners in this semi-crime, stopped by to give me a ride. I asked them to grab the box of candles, colorful mufflers and caps, and the old machine and tape, clearly marked as our tried and true rendition of Christmas harmonies.
Millie was in charge of starting the music when I gave the signal. Sometimes she’s a little spacey, but I figured she could handle that basic chore. Tom would stand in the back and man the volume as unobtrusive as possible. All the karaoke apparatus was disguised as a wrapped gift he would pull in a little red wagon. What could go wrong?
With twelve of us huddled together all bundled up, clutching our flickering candles, we looked like a charming Christmas card. I raised my arm and gave Mildred the high sign. Right on cue she slammed down the play button.
We opened our Chapstick coated mouths, and like programmed robot-carolers, the lip sync show began. Pastor’s family seemed to appear in every window at once, as did his neighbors in theirs. It all happened so fast I couldn’t process the hysterical laughter, applause, and delight coming from our heretofore puny audience.
We sounded like a combination of sassy chipmunks named Alvin, smart aleck bunnies named Bugs, pigs with girlfriends who answered to Petunia, and very daffy ducks. Granted, we were singing carols, but ones recorded by distinctive animated creatures my son loved.
We were the talk of the town and even had our picture in the local paper. That was a year ago. We’ve been asked to do a repeat performance this year, whether or not there is a mass outbreak of laryngitis.
Rover looked so innocent lying by the warm fire when I spoke to him this morning. “Now where did that funny little Christmas tape get to?”
He merely closed his eyes and pretended to go to sleep. Unlike some dogs named Goofy, he wasn’t singing.
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