Teresa gave me the best gift of the holiday season last night when she took me to a Sing-Along Messiah concert at the Washington Street United Methodist Church where I sang along with a packed church audience of other “Messiah” lovers who were mostly white-haired like me but had a good mixture of younger voices that gave me a feeling of hope for many more years of these sing-alongs.
It was a special night for us because the first official “date” we had fifteen years ago this Christmas was to go to a presentation of Handel’s Messiah by the choir and orchestra at the Park Street Baptist Church here in Columbia. I remember how nervous I was to ask her to go, although we had been friends for many years and done lots of things together like going to Panther football games several times, eating lunch frequently to discuss Guild business, meeting at my office for work on Guild mailing lists. We had been friends and activists in our community for seven years, but now things were different because we were both “available.” Our other long-term relationships were over.
Teresa laughs now because she said she didn’t know I was asking her out on a “date” when I asked her to go hear the Messiah. She says she was surprised that I asked her to go because neither of us went to church – and even more surprised when I suggested we go to dinner afterwards since I hadn’t said a word about that in my original “ask.” She was busy. She had to mail her Christmas cards. She had her fourteen-year-old son Drew to get dinner for, she said when I tried to prolong our evening. I must have looked so disappointed that she took pity on me.
Hm. Why don’t you go to the post office with me to mail my cards and then we can get a pizza to take home to Drew? Sure, I’d said, as my dream of a romantic dinner evaporated right there in her car in front of the Post Office on Assembly Street while she rummaged through her large purse looking for stamps for her cards. Before I knew it, I was sitting in Teresa’s living room eating a pepperoni pizza with her and her son watching her wrap Christmas presents. Her dog Annie stared at me from the safety of her vantage point under the coffee table. I stayed way too long.
The music last night transported me to the many wonderful places I’d performed Handel’s Messiah as a chorus member and soloist – even director in cities from Seattle, Washington to Fort Worth, Texas to Cayce and Columbia, South Carolina. I had always loved this music that symbolized Christmas for me whenever and wherever I’d heard it. Last night, however, I found those memories as fuzzy as the notes on the alto lines were as I tried my best to keep pace with the sing- along.
The most magical place the music took me last night? The living room of a little house on Wessex Lane where I sat eating pizza with a woman and her son. The most vivid memory? This was the night I realized I was falling in love with my best friend. Now that’s a memory to cherish.
I wish you all the hope for peace that this season offers and the joys of your favorite sounds of the season, but most of all, I wish you love.