It projects across the room, flat and forced, more like yelling than singing.
It’s a step, or two, behind the rest. A discordant echo chasing lyrics that roll off nimbler tongues with ease.
It’s one of the most beautiful sounds in my world.
We’ve had two Christmas shows already this year. At one, she sat front and centre, arms flailing in an approximation of the actions her classmates were performing. At the other, deciding she didn’t like her spot on stage she pulled up a chair and sat behind the rest of the choir.
There have been years when the traditions of seasonal performance have stung. When she refused to sit with her class or jingle her bells. When she decided scratching her bum onstage was more urgent than saying the words we had practiced so many, many times. When she pulled her dress up over her head for the duration. And while my mouth laughed with everyone else, my heart ached to see her set apart yet again.
But this year… this year her voice rang out above all the rest. Like it has for the last two Christmases, like it does each week at church, and in the car, and lying in bed at night.
She found her voice. She unleashed her inner diva. She fell in love with the spotlight.
Now, the holiday concert is joy. Vibrating with excitement, waving madly, calling out enthusiastically to familiar faces in the crowd, body and soul pouring out in a musical offering, bowing with a flourish at the end, two thumbs up and a toothy grin in my direction. “Good job!” she says to everyone.
No talent scout has darkened our door. No voice coach has approached us with accolades. Her imperfect efforts in these little shows don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, the Christmas show is standard fare for most kids, most schools, most families. Everyone does it. No big deal.
But these molehills are mountains to us. We don’t take any of it for granted. Which makes it even more magical.
At the church pageant our daughter’s friend, from Special Olympics, lisped a single line into the microphone. Heavily prompted. Two words at a time. I had to choke back tears as the crowd clapped and cheered.
Next week, we have another Christmas concert. I can’t wait. Because that toneless, tuneless, guileless song is music to my ears.
So here’s us, where performance is judged purely on enthusiasm and effort. And the ability to keep one’s clothes on in public.