Thursday, December 18, 2008

Make a Joyful Noise

He was barely 14 years old and he loved to sing. He’d been in the Cheyenne All City Children’s Choir for three years, gradually moving from the soprano section to the baritone, with a brief stop in the smile -a- lot -and -jingle- those- bells section. He was so full of music, however, that he needed another outlet. So he joined the church choir.

After a bit of time, he realized that although he enjoyed being in the church choir there still wasn’t much challenge. The days of complicated music had passed, for the time being, as Catholics everywhere were learning from their fellow Christians that making a joyful noise unto the Lord was a good thing for the entire congregation to share. Liturgical music had become more pew friendly, so to speak.

But music of a different style, in a language he didn’t speak, now there was a challenge. So with Sister Lucy’s blessing, he surprised most of the parish by joining the all adult Spanish choir as well. At first, the older members of the choir smiled and were kind to him, sure he’d give up this little phase. Our parish was over 70% Hispanic. With his strawberry blond hair, blue eyes and freckles he stood out like a golden Christmas ball in a sea of silver.

He learned to sing the lyrics when one of the ladies wrote everything out phonetically for him. Soon, he was their pet but everyone figured he’d give it up when summer arrived. He didn’t. He made every single practice all summer long and his pronunciation improved each week. He also showed up to help some of the elder members of the choir cut their lawns and weed their gardens. In return Ponce, the gifted classical Spanish guitarist who led the musicians, began to teach him to play the guitar.

When school began in the fall he elected to take Spanish- not for any of the usual reasons-but so he could finally understand what he was singing. Over the course of the next two semesters he would earn As in Spanish class while pulling a C- in English!

As Christmas drew nigh, St. Joseph’s parish’s music grew more festive. The only Anglo member of the choir was experiencing the joy of learning not only new songs and language but also the traditions of an old and beautiful culture. He came home and showed us how to make luminarias and explained how the flickering candles were put out to light the way for the Holy Family. He was one of the hardest workers when it came to collecting goods for the less fortunate, and he was the first to offer his help when it was needed.

He learned to make cinnamon hot chocolate from scratch and he learned to drink the delicious but potent Mexican fruit punch by accident and in doing so became a part of St. Joseph’s Parish’s body of humor. See, he was the only young person at Sister Lucy’s Christmas party for the Choir. Nobody thought about the traditional Ponche Navideno Caliente ( hot fruit punch) until he passed out. Ponce and Henry brought him home and Sister Lucy apologized for a month for letting him get drunk! He felt a bit cheated when he realized he'd gotten drunk when he didn't even know he was drinking!

Feliz Navidad! Prospero Ano y Felicidad!

Ponche Navideño

12 quarts water
10 oz tejocotes (or crab apples)
6 oz walnuts
5 oranges juiced
8 guavas
4 sugar canes
10 oz prunes
3 sticks cinnamon
2 lb. sugar
1 quart brandy or rum (optional)

Wash fruit. Cut the sugar cane into strips. Cut guava.
Boil everything together, except the sugar.
When cooked add the sugar and brandy.

See ya down the road,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now thats being vigilant!( not sure if I spelled that right) Good for him for not giving up.. What a way to experience your first hangover, not even knowing you were drinking.. poor kid lol..

Keep the stories coming Yarntangler, with four boys I'm sure you have a novel full ( wink)