Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Petit Papa Noel and My Grandmother

My brother and I were with my father's family just before Christmas while my mother was receiving one medical treatment or another. There were so   many medical procedures that it's hard for me to keep track. I believe we   had just turned five and were in kindergarten.  My twin brother and I went with  my grandparents and miscellaneous aunts, uncles, and cousins to the ward Christmas program. The theme was to be "Christmas Around the World.",,Families were supposed to prepare and songs from their regions  of  heritage, combining with other families if they so desired. The program  would end with everyone singing "Silent Night.".i should mention that such  programs more often than not aren't particularly well-organized. Someone    has a    great idea, but then no one checks up on anything or follows through.                                          

This program would be typical in that regard. The program began with a Hispanic family singing "Los Pastores a Belen. They finished and everyone applauded enthusiastically. One of the bishop's counselors, who was emceeing the gig, called for the  next family. No one stepped forward. My grandmother looked furiously  down the pew at her offspring. She had asked them to get together and prepare a French carol, which obviously no one had done.

I  waited a moment, then tiptoed from my chair to my grandmother's, and  tugged on her sleeve.. "I can sing a French carol, Grandma," I whispered to    her.                                       

My grandmother looked at me skeptically. "What can you sing, Alexis?"  she asked haltingly.                                       
 "Petit Papa Noel, "  I told her. There was no time for a run-through.

 "Are you sure?" she asked me.

"I'm sure, " I answered. My parents had been singing with us in public  since  I was three and had taught us to be confident performers. I'd never performed that particular song, but I felt i knew it well enough to pull it off.
 My Uncle Michael plays piano well and can play by ear.  He thought he somewhat  knew the        song. My grandmother sent him with me so that if I  was a total bomb, he could drown me out or something.

 In the uncomfortable silence that had ensued since no one else stepped  forward,  Uncle            Michael and I walked to the front of the chapel. The lone  microphone was affixed to the podium and could not be lowered to the reach of an undersized five-year-old.. The bishop's counselor looked around for a box or something on which I could have stood.  "It's OK," I told him. "I don't need a microphone."

"Are you sure?".he and my Uncle Michael .asked in unison. I couldn't have sung to the back row of a large auditorium, but a typical LDS chapel was well within my range.

My Uncle Michael sat at the piano. "Do you even know what key this should be in?" he asked very tentatively. 

"A-flat if you can manage it," I answered him.  He relaxed slightly, as though the knowledge that I knew in what key in which  I wanted the song to be played meant I might have some clue as to what i was doing.

'What do you want for an introduction>" Uncle Michael whispered.

"The introduction is vocal, " I told him. "I sing and you play."

"Do you need a starting note?" he asked,

"No," I answered. "and after the second bridge, you do a piano interlude if you can. You just play the melody of the verse. It's just the second half of the verse."  He looked at me somewhat quizzically. "Just follow me, " I told him. "And if you get confused, I can do this all
by myself."

I stepped to the end of the grand piano, facing the congregation, looked around the piano to nod at Michael, as I couldn't see him over the piano, and began the opening line, "C'est la belle nuit de Noel." Michael realized that I actually could find my E-flat without his hitting it on the keyboard first. He relaxed slightly.

I had perhaps more confidence than I should have had without having practiced the song, but sometimes confidence is a good thing. Once Michael stopped worrying about me,he was great, and even embellished his interlude solo. We finished to loud applause. 

As we were stepping down, the emcee. asked if we had any additional participants. No one volunteered, so one older lady raised her hand and said, "Can we hear that last number one more time?"

The bishop's counselor repeated, "Can we hear the last number one more time?"

Uncle Michael took my hand and we turned around and walked back to the dais.  The second time was easy,and the applause was even more uproarious.

We finished and walked back to our seats where we would remain for "Silent Night," the closing prayer, and the blessing of the light refreshments that were to be served. When we reached our pew, I was dismayed to find my grandmother crying.

"Grandma, I'm so sorry!," I told her. "I  didn't mean to embarrass you. I thought I knew it well enough. I won't ever do it again."

She reached for me and held me in a tight embrace, My uncle Michael's new fiancee (herself a Christmas miracle of sorts, as evidence to my grandparents' homophobic LDS friends that my Uncle Michael was not gay), seated directly behind us, leaned forward and whispered to me, "She's crying because she's happy, Alexis. You sang beautifully."

it was the first evidence I'd seen since I was old enough to remember that my grandmother loved me. That alone makes "Petit Papa Noel" one of my favorite songs.  Anytime I'm around her during the Christmas season, I always have to sing it to her, even if we're somewhere like in the lobby of a restaurant. It embarrasses me, but not her. She loudly says to everyone around, "This is my granddaughter. Isn't she wonderful!". 

                                            Josh's version is just a tad superior to mine.



  1. Christmas around the world... The Osmonds did it! And they sang "Petit Papa Noel", too.


    It's awesome that your grandmother loves you so much. :-D

  2. I haven't checked out your vieo -- i'll do that now -- but if it's the one I think it is, Luke Spencer (I can't reember his real name) and Madonna and maybe someone else are singing with Marie, Jay, and Jimmy.

  3. I think it's Anthony Geary (from General Hospital) and Lorna Patterson, who played Private Benjamin on the early 80s TV series and Randy on the movie Airplane!