By Jan Pease
Do you experience the joy of “ear worms?” Well, my current “ear worm” is the tune for “I Wonder as I Wander,” by John Jacob Nyles. He wrote down a fragment of a song that was sung in Murphy, South Carolina by the young daughter of an itinerant evangelist. Her name was Annie Morgan. She sang what we know as the first verse for 25 cents. (Her family was down and out, and trying to raise money for gas to leave town because they had made a nuisance of themselves by camping in the town square and hanging their laundry on the town monument to a Confederate soldier.) Mr. Nyles only collected part of the song, but he wrote the rest and performed it on December 19, 1933 at the John E. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. It is one of the few truly American Christmas songs. listen
I think that even in these darkest weeks of winter, there is a sense of wonder. Sometimes wonder comes in the simplest of ways. A nine-month-old baby focused on the twinkling lights of a Christmas book. She was sitting on her mom’s lap several feet away from the book, but looked right at it and then looked up at me with her beautiful dark eyes.
Wonder was very visible on children’s faces during Magic Bob’s “Magic of the Holidays” show. They loved it when Bob magically grew a Christmas tree. They really loved seeing the velveteen rabbit turn into a real, living bunny. One little thinker showed Bob a sticker of a dinosaur and asked him to change it into a real dinosaur. Magic Bob suggested that he should tape it to the bottom of his bed and wait 50 years to see what happens. I wonder if it will work?
I wish I could re-experience the wonder of making the first tracks on new-fallen snow. Or the excitement of looking for deer tracks in Youngstrom Woods with my daughter and her giggling friends. I would like to re-capture the mysterious sense of wonder while seeing that same daughter, a bit older, portray Mary in a nativity play with awkward “Joseph” behind her.
As long as we’re wishing, I’d like to see my Grandma Milan unbraid her hair, which I loved but could never brush. I’d like to hear my mom play beautiful music on Grandma Hilary’s cracked-key upright that sounded very out of tune until she played it. I’d like to ask my brother Jim to forgive me for always making him be the donkey when we acted out the nativity story in Grandma’s living room.
All of these experiences add up to gifts of time that cost nothing but are worth the effort. I hope your Christmas season is gentle and peaceful and full of wonder.
Remember that the library is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and that there is no story time on Friday, December 27.
And now I’m going to try to switch my ear worm to a different song, “We Wish You Merry Christmas!” (and a Happy New Year!) See you at the library!