December 4, 2016

Christmas Caroling

Each Christmas since my sister and her husband were killed in a car crash a few years ago, I have shared a Christmas memory related to them. The first story was The Christmas Jar, their secret mission to take the change they saved each year and leave it on the doorstep of a family in need without their knowing who it came from. Last year I shared The Snowflake Ornament from Donna and her class at church and how special it is and that it is the first ornament I put on my tree each year.

Now that another Christmas has rolled around, I will share another Christmas memory of my sister, Donna and her husband, Dewayne.

I was single and in my early twenties and Donna and Dewayne were the closest family I had. I went to “their” church. I helped Donna with her class of girls.

At Christmas time a group from our church (in Kentucky) decided to go Christmas caroling. The previous year we had gone to the hospital and just caroled in the hallways. This time we decided to go to some of the homes of families from our church.

It was a cold evening so we were bundled up and I remember gathering on the church bus and pulling our coats and scarves tight around us because it was cold and the bus heater, well, it didn’t do much heating.

Donna had stayed home. She had been baking cookies, making candies and promised all of us hot chocolate at her house after the caroling. We thought about her hot chocolate and desserts all evening long.

Dewayne, my brother-in-law, was known for his good singing voice. Not trained, no music degree, just a natural tenor voice and he enjoyed singing with anyone that would take him up on a duet or trio or quartet. That was back in the days when some churches, especially in Kentucky, still had Singings. Do you remember those?

Someone in the group had made copies of the songs we were to sing and we practiced a few at the church before heading out for our caroling.

When we started to practice Away in a Manger we all began to sing the song, but something didn’t sound right. Everyone but Dewayne was singing it one way, and Dewayne was singing it a different way and it was …wrong! We told him so.

He said,” No, this is how it goes.” We said “No, you are singing it wrong.”

He said, “Then you haven’t heard the other version.”

“What other version?” we asked him.

He convinced us there was another version out there, but for that night, he would sing it the “traditional” way most of us know.

The evening went smoothly as we made stops at homes throughout the town and sang our Christmas songs to church families who stepped outside to listen and neighbors who heard our singing and also came outside and shivered in the cold while we sang.

As the evening grew late we headed over to Donna and Dewayne’s house where a group of cold carolers rushed in to crowd around the fire place and were handed cups of hot chocolate by my sister. Her Christmas cookies and fudge were delicious and the conversation continued to be about how Dewayne sang Away in a Manger the wrong way.

He still assured us, his way was not wrong.

Several years later, Christmas music was playing on the radio and a set of Anne Murray songs began, and don’t you know, she started to sing Away in a Manger…wrong! She sang it the way Dewayne had sang it all those years ago.

There was another version!

I called Donna to tell her I had heard the over version and that Dewayne was right! Dewayne came on the phone, “Hey Sis, I told you so!” He always addressed me that way, “Hey Sis.” Just like Donna did.