December 26, 1984.
I was five.
Rob was three.
There was a fire in the fireplace.
I was standing in front of it, wearing my Christmas best.
Mom was cooking turkey for the extended family, who had not yet arrived.
Rob had been playing on his new ride-on fire truck in the kitchen.
The Conniff Singers were singing,
“Come, they told me, parum-pum-pum-pum…”
Dad had the video camera out.
We wished everyone a merry Christmas.
I was happy.

December 14, 2007.
I cried on the way to work today. It wasn’t because it was Friday. The company’s family-oriented holiday day is today, and there was a string quartet playing Christmas carols by the turnstiles when I came in.

It was the notes they were playing. Very deliberate plucking in perfect unison. “Brum, brum, brum-brum-brum…” I knew the song from the first note. It took all I had to hold back my tears.

It took me by surprise.

December 16, 2007.
Scanning old home movies, I skip over the parts where the goats ate Mom’s straw bag at the zoo in 1985, and where Rob and I were singing “Jingle Bells” before making the yearly holiday wreath with Dad. I pause for a moment when we hang stockings on Christmas Eve.

At last, I find what I’m looking for. December 26, 1984.

Exactly 38 seconds of video: me, standing in front of the fireplace, talking to Dad (hearing his voice!), wishing everyone a very merry Christmas, and clicking my heels in time to “The Little Drummer Boy,” as sung by Conniff. Nothing momentous. A memory solidified in my mind. Truth, defined.

I had no idea the power of a single note of music, a single breath of home.


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