A Breckenridge Christmas diary
special to the daily
It’s not just another Saturday in Summit County. For one thing, the heavens have opened up, Ullr and his gang have somehow been propitiated, and it’s snowing at last. And because tonight is the lighting of the Breckenridge Tree, the timing couldn’t be better.
Except for one slight, purely personal hitch: Accordions don’t like snow.
I’m to play tonight for the tree lighting, and my 1950s ice-blue Italian Renelli, ordinarily a Sherman tank of an accordion, sits in its corner, mutely begging me not to let it get wet.
There’s nothing remotely waterproof about an accordion ” at best, a deceptively fragile instrument to begin with.
Tim and I regard the Renelli, look at each other ” and without another word we go out to buy the biggest red umbrella we can find.
“We’ll be OK,” he says, “just as long as the snow doesn’t come at us sideways.” We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do if it does.
When you play the accordion outside, you have to consider three things ” the weather, the weather, and the weather. It’s cold out. Not bone-chilling, but still cold, especially to a warm-blooded Southern girl. To keep my hands from freezing while I play, I cut off the fingertips of my red knit gloves, which now resemble something a street urchin would wear in a Dickens novel.
I am wearing, to wit: Three pairs of ski pants, two ski tops, one pair trousers, one pair socks, one pair ski socks, boots, wool Christmas sweater, Christmas cardigan, red velvet Christmas cape trimmed in white Santa fur, ski headband, three-pointed Christmas hat and Dickens’ street urchin gloves.
Our first stop is the Subway on Main Street, where some of the students from Summit High are going to join me for some caroling. Volunteers pour hot chocolate, pass around cookies and distribute toys, while I start playing for the kids.
It occurs to me that, while I used to sing opera in subways in London, I’d never actually performed in a Subway before.
Soon, the carolers arrive, and we start a few choruses of “Up on the Housetop,” “Jingle Bells” ” all the old favorites. And then, the magic moment arrives, as Santa pulls up in his white horse-drawn carriage to the cheers of the crowd, which by now has grown to hundreds.
I launch into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and he waves and calls out a greeting to me. It’s a thrill from childhood that never palls ” Santa spoke to me! He singled me out ” just like he did with that kid in “The Polar Express!” The feeling doesn’t get any warmer and fuzzier than that.
We join the procession, me bouncing along with the accordion, the kids singing, and Tim cracking them up by forgetting the words to all the carols. We’re followed by a hot air balloon, which soon catches up with us, spewing huge jets of flame into the sparkling night sky.
The tree is draped with snow and decked in clear lights ” a glowing fantasy of white and silver the likes of which, thanks to the snow, I’ve never seen before. It makes me think of Burl Ives singing “Silver and Gold” while Yukon Cornelius goes to work with his pickaxe.
As we stand there, misty-eyed from something other than the frosty wind, the kids and I go into an impromptu version of “Silent Night,” while people around us join in.
It’s the most moving moment of the night for me, and when we’ve finished, after a few rounds of “Let it Snow,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” we’re reluctant to go.
Four members of the choir ” Ania, Julie, and two Melissas ” stay behind a bit to chat. Somehow, they feel the exhilaration, the thrill of it all as well.
My gig may be over, but the festivities are just beginning. Tim straps the accordion backpack on and we head toward the outdoor concert at Main Street Station. On the way there we meet Marisa and Matt Cameron, who just got married this afternoon, to coincide with the tree lighting. Covered from head to foot in a snow white cape, Marisa looks like a winter princess from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.
The two of them drive away in Santa’s white horse-drawn carriage, which he just vacated in order to set up court at a vacant storefront in Main Street Station. As always, I gravitate toward Santa. We’re met by a tiny sprite of a child, Willow, who is pouring hot chocolate for everyone.
“I won’t give you a lid, because that’s for the little children ” they spill things,” Willow confides in a whisper as she serves us.
Tim reaches over ” and immediately spills hot chocolate all over himself.
“Do you need a lid?” Willow asks anxiously, handing him one. To our delight, he is now relegated, in the eyes of Willow, to the ranks of the 3-year-olds. I half expect her to send him over to sit on Santa’s lap, but she tactfully refrains from making the suggestion.
Main Street is a skating rink now, as we hold on to each other and slide along the tree-lit sidewalk. The town is draped in Christmas jewels, which light our way back to the car. It’s been magical, memorable ” everything Christmas should be.
On to Frisco next, where I’ll spend the next two Saturday afternoons playing at the Old Fashioned Christmas along Main Street. Come by and say hello ” and join me in a carol or two!
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