Christmas Window at Blackwater
photo courtesy dkminnick
Ahh, time to start the New Year at Blackwater.
We have just finished a momentous Christmas. We had our first caroling party at Blackwater. To understand the significance, you have to know that our family caroling parties date back to at least 1992. Their roots go back even farther, as I have caroled in some form or fashion since before 1967. It was sporadic, but each year I would doggedly try to find a way to carol. Sometimes it was with a youth group or organized choir. Sometimes just a couple friends and I. The year I was pregnant with our firstborn, our medical records group caroled through the hospital. For some reason we dressed in costume. I wore a Christmas tree outfit made of felt, and I carried a small tree for my ‘wee unborn one’.
By the time said firstborn was in 6th grade, the family had increased to 5 (ultimately it became 6). She was in a musical group at school, so we invited the whole crowd to come out to our house for goodies and a little caroling through the winding streets of our hillside neighborhood. A tradition was born.
As time went on, we continued to invite friends – everyone is told to invite anyone they wish plus the person’s family – to come out and sing and have goodies and watch movies. There is no time limit on the party, except for whether or not it runs overnight. Our caroling usually goes from 6:00pm to 9:00 pm.
I tend to get in a tizzy when preparing for parties. Cleaning and baking is done at top speed while my mind races to see what I can safely leave undone after all. Some years the decorating was complete, and other years a dark green undecorated tree or incomplete crèche stood watch as revelers filed in and out of the house. For me, probably the most significant memory of these years is the mad rush to finish cleaning the house, and the way the downstairs family room would swallow up teenagers as soon as they arrived.
For as children grew into pre-teens and teens, the parties grew. And grew in importance, too. The year of our last party in Nashville, we sent out written invitations to accompany the directions to our house. In the invitation, we noted that it was our last party, as the next spring we were moving to Fayetteville. The response was overwhelming: we had over 50 people! 50 people from all parts of our lives, accompanying us on our last round of caroling.
We made a point to let the recipients of our carols know it was the last year, too, and with hope we encouraged a few of them to take over the tradition.
Last year was our first Christmas in Blackwater, but we couldn’t get everything together in time for a caroling party. We did hear, however, from various friends, including some high school friends of our now-college students, that our party was sorely missed. In fact, even this year, our two oldest, age 27 and 22, informed us they still had friends who complained of missing our party.
So it was with high hopes that we planned a party for 2008. Again we invited friends, although not nearly as many as previously (it does take time to build a following). We tried to set the party for after the older siblings got in, but this year it wasn’t possible. We also set out flyers letting people know we were singing, and asking that they leave a porch or Christmas light on if they wanted to hear us, and that they feel free to join us on our musical journey if they wished.
Cleaning and cooking went the smoothest it ever has. Well, we’re all older and more organized now. We had a half-dozen guests, but put that with our four (my husband stayed home to send along any stragglers), and we had a nice-sounding group. So nice, in fact, that we surprised ourselves. When asked if we rehearsed, we had to say no, but we were able to perform Carol of the Bells in parts with no problem. The key appears to be that even though we didn’t rehearse in a group, almost all of us had sung with someone else in the group, so we were all attuned anyway. We even picked up a couple neighbors who joined us along the way, and they came back to our house to sing to my husband.
We sat around with goodies and good cheer afterwards, promptly making plans for next year’s party. The interesting thing is, with 2 out of the house, and 3 in college, I’m just not sure when we’re doing it!
This was important for us in so many ways. Caroling is a gift we give to our neighbors, and the party is a gift we give ourselves. We love sharing Christmas. We’d been forced to skip one year. It hadn’t felt right. This was a homecoming for us. We really have made the transition to Fayetteville and to Blackwater. While we may not know what comes next, we have indeed finally made it here.