Green and red. And flashing lights.
The day after Thanksgiving in Colville, all the decorations came out to festoon the lamp poles. And even bigger ones were strung on wires and suspended across Main Street.
And little hearts rejoiced for they knew that Christmas was on the way. And all that meant to a kid in their childish understanding and expectations. Mostly their expectations.
We were taught Christmas carols and sang them in class. For some reason I was chosen with two other boys to form a trio and learn a carol by heart.
We must have spent a few days rehearsing the number. There were a lot of new and strange words. “Orient,” for instance. And “traverse afar.” I know – two words, but it rolled off our tongues as one.
I don’t remember the lead up, that all fades to the background in the light of the actual performance.
The three of us were dressed in white shirts, vests and bow ties. Come our turn we mounted a stage or a dias and sang “We Three Kings” before an audience of businessmen, whether that was the Chamber of Commerce or the Kiwanas I’m not sure. I couldn’t make out any faces, only vague forms from my viewpoint. Which is just as well, I would have probably frozen otherwise. Anyway, it came off flawless, we kept in tune and sang all the words, no fumbling or hesitation.
Our family did not attend church. My folks were married in the Colville Congregational church, but after that, there was no commitment, churchwise. We were positioned under the overarching label of Protestant. With this my father was content. He had suffered through his youth in a split family – not divorced – but a Protestant mother married to a Catholic father, who often absented himself to be with his mother and unmarried sisters, all of whom looked down on his wife. Between themselves, my folks decided that their children would make their own decisions.
I found that I liked the tune. Both it and the lyrics had a certain beauty to them. Singing them I even felt, dare I say, “holy?” Reverent at the least. The author knew something, and he communicated it, though it would be years before I understood and believed it. But more than that he evoked a longing, and that is what I resonated with.
Guide us to
Thy perfect light.”