As a boy, I sang in a Christmas ensemble that dressed like English carolers. Each year, I donned knickerbockers and a newsboy cap. And it bears mentioning: an outfit like that might look good on skinny boys, but it makes chubby boys look ridiculous. As though they ought to be accompanied by a tuba.
The highlight of our a cappella act was a version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” in which we acted out verses. My role was the “ten lords a’leaping.” On cue, I would skip in circles, leaping, like a little girl with a brand new sticker collection.
During our performance at the mall, things were going fine, until I commenced frolicking. It was downhill from there. That’s when I tripped and split open the seat of my britches. And, as I discovered that day, the only thing worse than a plump boy in ripped knickers, is a boy wearing Batman underpants.
The highlight of our season was Christmas Eve. On that night, we strolled neighborhoods, caroling from porch to porch. Elderly ladies gave us cheese straws, chocolate pretzels, and popcorn balls as big as classroom globes.
When our choir arrived at the last house, we were greeted by a frail woman in a wheelchair. Her name was Miss Doherty. I’ll never forget that name as long as I live. Doctors had removed her breasts, and she was hairless, with a gaunt neck.
We must’ve sang a hundred songs for that woman and her nurse. In fact, we sang our entire repertoire twice. And when it came time for me to prance, by God, I did. Until I was out of breath and sick to my stomach.
They say it was the first time Miss Doherty laughed in a long time.
And the last.