Last night was weird.
We drove along a road beside the lake that seemed to get narrower and narrower. And darker and darker. No lights. No passing cars. Not even those little reflector things. A land that time, and cell phone coverage, had forgotten; remarkable since my wife and I are with separate carriers. We’ve driven this route in daytime at least 50 times, but on this occasion, it seemed like a scene from Jurassic Park.
And then, just as I was about to give up and turn around, we found the recently restored church. We parked our car next to the building up a dirt road where, I swear, once the car headlights went off, you could not see your own hand in front of you.
The church was brightly lit by generator and the occasional candle. There was no heat. The organ was a pump organ which occasionally had a few stuck notes. Cold, hard wooden pews. Photocopied carol sheets with a little flap stapled into a page where a verse had been left out. Did I mention that there was no heat?
And there, in our trip back in time, we joined about 35 people — none of whom we knew — and sang Christmas songs and carols; requests randomly bouncing back and forth from the religious to the ridiculous. With each new song, I could see my breath as I sang.
A break was scheduled in the middle for hot cider and hot chocolate. We didn’t know that. We’d seen the spread on a table at the front when we arrived and had just wandered up and started munching and sipping. Oh well, we had a head start on everyone else.
A few people spoke to us, but even with the commonality of the Christmas songs, we felt like outsiders. Life in a small town, I suppose, or in this case a non-town; a non-village; a barely hamlet. Some of these people actually live in this middle of nowhere. Maybe we’d simply lost points by descending on the snacks prematurely.
The organist let me have a go at a verse of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. My aunt had a pump organ when I was much younger, and I remembered to keep working the pedals. Great memories.
Lots of good singing, but all in all a rather strange night in a surreal setting.
Did I mention there was no heat?