Skipping Along

Ron Karpinski   1998


The family gathered at Adi's house for Christmas this year.  Adi is my wife Irmi's older sister.  Adi, her husband, Klaus, and their six-year-old daughter, Katja, live in Mannheim.

In early evening, we wrapped up in wool overcoats and walked to a local church to attend the Christmas Eve service.  Along with the usual hymns and sermon, neighborhood children performed a nativity play.  This year's service was much better than usual.

Credit the new pastor for that.  He apparently saw the futility of preaching to a congregation consisting of two-thirds distracted adults and one-third squirming children under the age of five.  Instead, he led the packed house through three rousing yuletide songs of praise, spoke for five minutes, and gave the rest of the hour to the children.

Children fell into two groups: those who would perform in the play and the rest who came to watch.  Those in the play behaved well, although they did break a few eardrums in the crowd, shouting into a powerful new sound system.  Kids in the audience were not so well mannered, leaning over railings in the loggia, racing in the aisles, and straining to break free from their parents in the pews.

The young thespians all recited their lines, some better than others, and this year's play passed into history.  No small feat, given the disruption of a hundred or so popping flashbulbs from a parade of proud parents standing to snap their child's photo.  No one in the rear could see a thing.

We took our time walking home, staring up at the clear, starlit night.  At one point, Katja and I shared a spontaneous impulse to skip; so we broke ahead of the others and bounced hand-in-hand down the sidewalk, me with my long winter coat swaying left and right.  From behind, they said, I looked like a tall Charlie Chaplin.

After so many years, it felt a bit awkward at first; but how can one forget something as fun and carefree as skipping?  We should all go skipping once a week!  Katja and I kept it up for two blocks, then I tired and fell by the wayside.

Katja, of course, did not want to stop, so Irmi and her mother, Rosie, joined her.  Rosie lined up on the left, Irmi in the middle, and Katja on the right.  In flawless harmony, the three bounded off into the darkness.

Too bad no one had a camera.  The view from the rear would have made a great photo.  Three generations of women from the same family skipping hand-in-hand on a crisp winter eve - a perfect holiday scene!


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