Sunday, November 01, 2015

Of Songs and Sympathy

My 15 year old daughter, Siena, is a pretty good kid.  I don't always understand her, but that doesn't change the fact that she is essentially a wonderful human being. This was exemplified by something that happened on Halloween last night.

Every year at our house, Halloween is an incredibly busy night. Our home feels like a repository of cousins, friends and family members who come by to let their kids hit the "rich people houses" that surround our neighborhood.  Tales of full size candy bars at every house are the thing of legend for eager young treaters and this year was no exception.  Not only did we have Halloween to contend with, but two different birthday parties (my daughter and mine) later that evening.  Siena was expecting he high school friends over, a lively bunch of young ladies who were planning on trick-or-treating before the party.  She had also agreed to doing three separate face painting makeups, her own and her two younger siblings.  So, Sisi had a pretty busy night ahead of her.

I always get a little nervous when I find out my teens are trick-or-treating, not because they are past the recommended treating age, but because I never really know their real intentions for going out.  Siena's older brother, Max, for example, had plans to go out for Halloween, too.  His plans, however, involved a gang of cousins and friends and playing pranks in a red full body morph suit. Could I expect a phone call from the police or better yet, my wife calling me to cut my Halloween early to deal with the hell these teenage boys had wrought upon our neighborhood.  I had similar thoughts for Siena.  Was going out with her friends just a ruse to get dressed up in skimpy cat outfits and prowl for cute boys?  I dunno.  Isn't that what teenage girls do?  I'm old.

In any event, after returning from my own annual Treating Jaunt 2015, with my youngest kids (SIDEBAR PROTIP: I learned that I avoid being chastised for being an adult Trick or Treater by wearing a mask. This way I could pass as my daughter's "older brother" and guiltlessly fill a pillow case with as many full size candy bars), my teens slowly made their way back to home base.  No police calls for my son. Mental crisis number one averted. I did find out that two of the older boys just walked up to homes and asked for candy sans costumes, which I am sure confused many of the senior citizens on their route.

Then Siena and her friends came back home.  Would they be dragging in some flannel shirted teenage Adonis who smelled of Axe and communicated only by a series of "sups" and "brehs"? I shudder to think of the possibilities.

"We got a TON of candy!" Siena and her friends each held up pillowcases which easily weighed 10 lbs. each. "Great," I thought silently to myself.  "I told her not to wear that sleeveless top. It shows more skin than I'm comfortable with my daughter showing. Plus, it's cold. At least dress for the weather! Don't you check the weather app on your phone? Did we not raise a daughter with sense?"

Siena then proceeded to tell my wife and I that the four of them had gone from house to house, not trick or treating, but singing for people.

What I neglected to tell you is that Siena is in her high school choir.  She is the soprano and a damn good one according to everyone from her choir director to seasoned musicians who have been blown out of their shoes after hearing this beautiful, angelic voice emanating from her five foot frame.  She sings mostly sacred music; four part harmony Gregorian chant.  It's pretty heady stuff to be sure, well past what other choirs are expected to sing at her age.  And she nails it. Everytime. In a big way.

What she and her friends had done for the 2 hour Trick or Treat period is decided they would go from door to door and essentially sing these four part harmonies, slightly changing the words to "Trick or Treat."  As you could probably imagine, people were gobsmacked, emptying their candy bowls into each of their bags.  Some people were in tears and most were left with a feeling of awe that they had just been "treated" to a bit of song on this night of supposed terror.

She then told us about this one house they went to.  They had avoided it at first because posted on the door was a handwritten sign that said something to the effect of "Please leave medication in the mailbox". It was a message, not for the incoming Trick or Treaters, but for some caregiver who was coming to help out whoever lived in the house.

On their way back, they passed the house again, this time noticing a group of saint statues in the front yard.  They decided to approach again, knock and see if they could sing for the residents.

An older woman answered the door.  The girls began to sing.  But before they could get to the end of the first verse, the woman said abruptly "Can I stop you?"  The girls stopped singing, nervous they had done something wrong.

"My husband is dying. I'd like you to come in and please sing for him."

It was at this point, that my wife and I audibly gasped in our living room, hearing this story.

The girls went into the home an found an older man, the woman's husband, sitting in a chair, connected to different machines by wires and tubes. He had a blanket over him, and hearing her describe it, he was on some sort of oxygen machine because of the tubes coming out of his nose. They sang for him for about 10 minutes, "Oh God Beyond All Praising" and "King of All Our Shepards". He listened to these four angelic voices filing his living room with sacred music. Who could have even predicted this? On this, Halloween night.  They talked briefly before leaving and heading home, but not before his wife gave them all bracelets, extra candy and of course, hugs.

The girls stood in our living room, telling us this story and then shared a short version of their program.  We clapped, we hugged.

And we were humbled.

What an interesting and memorable Halloween night they created for many.

I pondered over this story this morning, remembering that today was All Saint's Day and that it was also the day my father passed away four years ago. Had my dad been alive when Siena had honed her talent to where it is today, he would have loved it.  As much as he loved her.  After all, they did share a birthday together.

Please remember all those souls who have passed on during this All Saint's Day. And if I learned anything from this, it's to try to do something unexpected for those who are still here with us to enjoy it.