Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Closet carolers

Rob decided at the beginning of this month that we should start singing a Christmas carol or two a night around the piano. He plays guitar while Will and I (and sometimes even Owen) make noise on the piano. (We happen to have the most basic songbook ever so that for the first time in my life I can actually keep time on the piano.)

Of course, we’ve only actually gathered for carol singing a few times so far (and we wouldn't dare take our dissonant act door-to-door). But I also sing carols to Will on request throughout the day. His favorite – The Twelve Days of Christmas -- pacifies him while I brush his teeth or put his shoes on for school.

But yesterday morning he had a different request while I was brushing his teeth: “Sing the tidings song, mom.”

I had to think. And then I started in with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (good tidings we bring, and all)

After school, tidings were still on Will’s mind. “Mom,” he said from the back seat, “Ally and me don’t want any tidings. We don’t need any tidings when we’re in the living room playing football.”

“What do you think tidings are?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

And so another fumbling answer: “Well tidings are nice things that you say to people: like merry Christmas or happy birthday. It’s wishing good things for people. So when you sing “good tidings we bring” that means we’re bringing nice things to say -- or saying nice things.” (In fact, according to my Webster's Dictionary a tiding is "a piece of news" so my response could probably use some tweaking.)

“Well Ally doesn’t like tidings. He said they’re bad words. But I said, no Ally, they’re nice things…We don’t need any tidings. But sometimes we say Ho Ho Ho.”

The whole scene made me think of that scene from Ramona the Pest when Ramona starts wondering about the “dawnzerly light” in the Star Spangled Banner.

From my own childhood, I remember thinking that the three kings were from a place called Orientar.

And the misinterpretations persist for me. Just this week, as we looked at the songbook’s lyrics for “Up on the Housetop” I realized all my life I’d been thinking those were reindeer paws making noise on the roof – not reindeer PAUSING while Santa does his chimney jump. Of course! I thought to my brilliant self. Reindeer are hoofed creatures after all. And it only took me about 30 years to figure that one out.

What carols or song lyrics have your kids (or you) puzzled over?

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