Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Anecdote


It's Christmas Eve!  So, rather than blog on Christmas, I'm posting this today.  You may, if you like, read this in place of a Christmas story.  Though it's not really a story but an anecdote.  Nor is it heartwarming, not really.  Actually, it's kind of cynical.  That's because every word of it is absolutely true.

Now, is everybody gathered around the fireplace?  Do you all have your egg nog?  Comfy?  Good.  Then Unca Mike is going to tell you about . . .

The Christmas Carolers of Roxborough

I live in a Philadelphia blue-collar neighborhood called Roxborough.  It's a pleasant place to live and I like the people here a great deal.  My neighbors are people like plumbers and roofers and contractors, firemen and police officers and school teachers, folks who work for a living.  You don't get much vandalism here, because hardly anybody's going to commit a crime for free.

A couple of decades ago, there was a ragged band of young boys who would come to the house caroling every year.  One evening, there'd be a banging at the door and when you answered it, there they were:  smirking and shuffling their feet and hitting each other.  You'd open the door and they'd begin to sing:

     We wish you a merry Christmas
     We wish you a merry Christmas
     We wish you a merry Christmas
     And a happy new year

Then they'd wait expectantly for some money.  If you stood there like you were expecting more music or, as I would, called back into the house, "Marianne, come quick!  We've got carolers!" they'd launch into the number again:

     We wish you a merry Christmas
     We wish you a merry Christmas
     We wish you a merry Christmas
     And a happy new year

Because they clearly didn't know the second verse.  Nor did they have any other songs on tap.  But if you were dense enough to applaud and then ask for more, they sing:


and their leader's hand would come out.

Now, thanks to Charles Dickens, we all understand that there's nothing more festive or Christmasy than a gang of gamins, guttersnipes, and ragamuffins on the make.  So I'd always give them five or ten bucks for their trouble, and they always came back the next year.  It was a tradition that I valued.

But then one year, not at Christmas but on Easter Day, there was a banging on the door.  I went to answer it and there were the usual suspects grinning and hitting and smirking.  I looked at them blankly and they sang:

     We wish you a merry Easter
     We wish you a merry Easter
     We wish you a merry Easter
     And a [but here they trailed off uncomfortably] happy near year

Then their ringleader stuck out a hand.

"Nice try," I said, and shut the door in their faces.

I never saw them again.

Photo Credit:  "Punk Rudolph" by Michael Swanwick.  Copyright 2007.

And don't forget to check in Monday . . .

Which is when I'll reveal the winner of this year's Godless Atheist Christmas Card competition!



Oz said...

Now that's the Philly I remember!

A story much enjoyed at this end by several people when I read it aloud.


kyle cassidy said...

i think the only thing to do is give them figgy pudding. and nothing else.

Nalo said...

...or maybe just the sign of the fig.

Michael Swanwick said...

I think it was Diamond Jim Brady who said, "Being a sucker is fun, if you can afford it."

Me, I could afford it on Christmas. But it's a slippery slope from Easter to Arbor Day.