A sense of belonging

I’m not a religious person – in fact quite the reverse – but I do like music, and so I often visit the little church in our village when there is a concert.  It helps me that Monica sings in the choir, and it helps even more that I am one of four or five spouses who assist with the kind of things a choir needs help with from time to time.  We put up tables, we arrange chairs, we fetch, we carry, we take.  We help to tidy up afterwards, sweep and even mop floors and the like.  We know all the members of the choir as well as if we sang with them.

And tonight they were having a Christmas concert:  no less than six Yuletide hymns which the congregation would sing, and about ten other songs, including six with soloists from the choir.  Yes, this is a good choir.  They could have had a separate soloist for each Christmas song they sang.

As far as the ‘Christmas message’ is concerned, this is nothing for me.  When I had my own company in another country a long time ago, we closed for Christmas the weekend before the winter solstice and opened again after twelfth night, so that my employees had a good long holiday with their families.  I see this season as a pagan one, although my reaction to it is naturally coloured by my childhood memories, and I do like a good sing-song.

But the thing which overwhelmed me this evening was a sense of belonging, and not just to the choir, although I have emphasised that above.  As soon as I entered the building, I was welcomed by just about everybody there, choir members, villagers come, like myself, to hear the music.  My hand was shaken till it nearly fell off.  I was clapped on the back, hugged by numberless women, wished the compliments of the season, asked about my health by people who really wanted to know.  I felt that I was a member of my village, that I would be missed if I were not there, all to a degree which I have never in my life felt before.  It was very moving and confirms what I felt on that day in 2005 when we drove up for the first time to view what was to become our house.  It felt as though I had at long last come home.

At that time I was still tied by the umbilical cord of the railway to my job in the big city, on the outskirts of which we had lived for so many years.  Retirement was several years away.  But I knew that, even if we did not buy this house, I would want us to buy another property near by.  And now, when we are thinking half-heartedly that it would be good not to have so many garden beds to manage, nor so many metres of path to shovel clear of snow in the winter, there is no question of our moving even to one of the neighbouring villages.  This little village of Malmköping is our home, and here are our friends, and we want to have them in walking distance.

Ah, home, sweet home!

© James Wilde 2015