A repost from Christmas Past:
My Father sang in several local choral groups when I was growing up, and one of them would spend the last Saturday before Christmas singing carols at the local hospitals and nursing homes. A wonderful Holiday tradition if there ever was one.
When I turned five, my father asked my brother Mike, who was a year older than me, if we wanted to go with him and his choral group to sing carols. Being the fine upstanding Irish Catholic children that we were, we said no. There was no way we were going to spend the Saturday before Christmas getting dragged around with a bunch of old people, singing some stupid carols to sick people and invalids. Us Irish Catholic adolescents didn’t know the meaning of the word altruism.
My Father, not only had a fine Irish tenor voice, but he was also persistent, so he asked my brother and I every year to go with him, and every year we politely told him to stick it. In 1968, when I was 10 my brother Mike said that we should probably go caroling just once, then Dad would probably stop asking us, especially after he heard us sing. My voice has been compared to Andy Williams………..choking on a piece of food, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get asked again.
When Saturday rolled around my brother got “sick” and said he couldn’t go. So I had to go alone. That wasn’t the 1st time my brother screwed me, but it was one of his best efforts.
So little 10 year old Kevin got to go caroling while wearing a hand-me-down winter coat, with the mittens on a string, buckle boots, with a broken buckle on each boot, and my sister’s woolen hat, because mine had mysteriously disappeared. Oh Joy To The World!!!!
We went to the 1st nursing home, I put my best Christmas pout on, refused to sing a single carol, and wondered if Santa would count this against me. After my inglorious performance we were ushered over to the biggest table of Christmas goodies I had ever seen. Cookies, candy, pie, soda, cake, did I mention the cookies. All for me, bless us all everyone. I started chowing down, my misery forgotten, stuffing my face as well as my pockets, it was truly a Christmas miracle.
My Father had to drag me away from my yuletide orgy, to go talk to some of the residents of the nursing home. “What…..are you crazy……I don’t like old people….I like cookies. Get your hands off me man!!” Next thing I know I’ve got some blue-haired old lady whose breath smelled like moth balls squeezing my cheeks and telling me how cute I was. Then she reaches into her big old lady purse and tells me she has something for me. She pulls out an old kleenex with a partially sucked mint stuck to it. I’m starting to get the dry heaves, and looking for the nearest exit, when she hands me a quarter. A QUARTER…….I had heard about these things called quarters, but I had never actually touched one. I was so shocked I hadn’t realized that I had moved on to the next blue-haired old lady who was squeezing my cheeks and also telling me how cute I was, while pressing a dime in my hand. It was then that I realized……. I was cute. I am the most adorable blonde-haired 10 year old on the planet. Everybody must recognize the glory that is me and give me money. I started working the room, shaking hands, readily offering one of my adorable cheeks for a squeeze, while raking in the cash. My Father had to drag me to the car. “I can’t leave I screamed, there are still some people who haven’t squeezed my precious 10 year old cheeks. Get your hands off me man!!!!!”
But everything was fine, because we were heading for another nursing home. This time I was ready. As soon as we walked into the dining room where we were going to sing I scoped out the room. Table full of Christmas goodies….check. Room full of senior citizens with quarters to burn…..check. A thousand watt smile from an adorable 1o year old…..check.
This time I sang every carol with all the passion of a winged cherubim sent from heaven. When we finished, I ran to the goodie table, buckle boots clanging, and gorged myself on every tasty treat. I then began to work the room. “Why yes…I am the cutest thing you ever saw. A quarter for me?……Merry Christmas. I wouldn’t say I sang like an angel, but thank you anyway. I wish I had a grandmother like you.”…….cha-ching!!!
When it was all said and done, I had pocketed a cool $7.00 by the end of the day,( a princely sum back then) and eaten a ton of sugary goodness. Best Christmas ever. It was a wonderful life. “Merry Christmas Bedford Falls, Merry Christmas Mr. Potter. Teacher says, every time a bell rings I get a quarter. Who’s sick now Mike?”……..Cha-Ching!!!!
Fast forward 12 months, Christmas 1969. I couldn’t wait to go caroling. If I was the cutest 10 year old on the planet, then imagine how much cuter I got in a year. I made sure I memorized the words to all the carols, and I fasted for 3 days so I’d be able to eat more yuletide goodies. I did cheek exorcises to prepare for all the squeezing. I wore my coat with the big pockets to fit all the money I was going to get, and I ditched the buckle boots, I felt they were cramping my cuteness.
We walked into the 1st nursing home, and I really laid on the charm. “Hi, Merry Christmas, everybody pay attention to me, I’m about to wow you with my golden pipes.” We sang about a dozen carols, I lit up the room with my smile, and then we left……….”Wait, where are we going?…. what about the goodies? What about the money? These people deserve to gaze upon the wonder that is me, and squeeze these adorable cheeks. What the heck is going on?”
We made about 10 more stops, and not one cookie passed through my lips, not one cheek was squeezed, not one penny was pressed into my little hand. Someone please wake me up from this nightmare!!!
“Clarence! Clarence! Help me, Clarence! Get me back! Get me back. It’s a wonderful life, my ass!!!” Worst Christmas ever.