MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE !
Finn, December 24th, 2007
“Me?”, Finn stuttered, surprise edged deeply within those two letters: “What … but, why?”, he still couldn’t wrap his head around the words his grandfather had just spoken; met the old man’s expectant eyes with a look of utter bewilderment. This was not right, was not how it had been the past years of his life and still, Finn could not deny the spark of excitement that had found its way into his stomach. It burnt brightly there, slowly igniting the rest of his body until his cheeks felt flushed and his eyes shone brightly through the darkened room.
“By now, you probably know the story better than I do”, his grandfather reasoned with a shrug, closely observing the boy’s rising excitement: “Besides, I think it is time for you to narrate for once, it brings a whole new feeling to the story – one might even say, a whole new magic”, he winked at those words, making Finn simultaneously feel more anxious to start telling the tale and more nervous to have his Opa at the receiving end of it. To make matters even worse, the old man raised his voice, easily drowning out the Christmas music and conversations in the rest of the room: “Attention everyone: Finn will be telling the Mozart story this year. Gather around”, he said it all with the flair of a born showman, spreading his arms in a wide gesture, indicating the empty sofas around where he and his grandson sat. Within minutes the rest of the family had joined them, Chloé even abandoning her presents for the yearly tradition. It had taken her a while to be as fascinated with the story, as Finn had been from the very first time he had heard even part of it, but now his little sister had joined the fan club. She would not miss any opportunity to hear the tale – even, when it wasn’t their grandfather’s soothing voice, who told it.
“Go on, then”, she said, the second she had reached the little gathering in the living room, so much more impatient than any of the others.
“I … chrm … okay”, Finn felt a sudden feeling of stage fright, felt every pair of eyes fixed onto him alone and had a hard time finding into the story. He knew it by heart, of course, having listened to it every single year from when he had been nothing more than a tiny little baby and yet, he feared for a second he wouldn’t remember all the words. But even though, the sentences and characters came to him almost as soon as he had started his narration, the first minutes felt slow and hard, as if the Christmas festivities had left him out of breath already. His voice sounded odd to his own ears, until he finally managed to submerge himself into the story; seeing the narrow streets of his hometown in front of his eyes and hearing Mozart’s music in his ears:
“… but no matter how many excursions they took, Salzburg remained as plain as the sheet music set on top of his piano by Leopold. It was not for months that the siblings focused on a new escape route: after all, what better way of fleeing music’s constraints than using it as their way out …”, he stopped for effect there, remembering his grandfather doing the same and looking into his family’s bright eyes. After his initial difficulties, he suddenly found himself enjoying the moment of their complete attention. It had taken a while, but Finn had finally started to fall in love with telling the story. The nervousness of a couple minutes ago seemed nothing but a faint memory and with every new word he spoke, he knew he would continue to tell this story from now on, year after year, until it was his turn to hand the tradition down to his own grandson in a couple decades’ time.
“The time leading up to Christmas had been ruled by even more commitment, a concert being set up by Leopold almost every single day, like an advent calendar filled with stress and anxiety for young Wolfgang. He and his sister had tried so hard to free themselves from their father’s tyranny. And yet, all their attempts had been fruitless, leaving both of them all the more exhausted as the first advent weekend had fallen over them; as Leopold had announced his grand plan of bringing the Salzburg Christmas cheer to all different cities and countries, of travelling the world even in the one time of year that promoted peace and quiet above all else. It was then – all but locked up in their little horse-drawn carriage – that Nannerl came up with the idea of the magical melody. A simple piece of music with the magical power of transporting people to a whole new world: one with tunes in their most precious and purest form and nobody to spend them as currency, binding human life to their value. The idea, so unprecedented and original, was more than enough fuel to keep Wolfgang awake through the nights, composing with vigour he had not felt for many months, for there was no doubt in his mind that he – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – would be able to craft this piece of music. And so he worked hours on end, resting only when no stern words of discipline and no drug would keep his eyes open any longer. All the while, he was telling his sister how far along he had already come, how their escape was only a few days, a few miles away. Both siblings decided to test the piece in Vienna – their second to last stop before Christmas and a city, which had always encompassed freedom for them. Wolfgang had always liked it there, had almost imagined this new magical world of music as a version of Wien itself and so – blissfully ignorant in his young arrogance – he sat down at his piano, willing his hard work to pay ofs”, Finn stopped, feeling unfamiliar with the sudden dryness of his throat. He didn’t think he had ever talked for so long without an interruption, for his audience seemed too transfixed in listening to the story, to even breathe. It was funny to see, how the stories magic had lured them in once again, even though each and every one of them had heard it before. Did he usually look like them? A bemused smile stole its way over Finn’s mouth, as he continued: “Wolfgang played and played, his piano emitting the beautiful sound he had envisioned for this piece … but nothing more happened. Where the young artist had expected colour, the room seemed to have lost some of its intensity; where he had wanted to create light, a sudden dimness had filled the room. It all seemed more surreal as any magical world could have ever been, for Wolfgang had been so sure of himself. And so the room looked back at him bleakly, seemingly colourless in the face of his disappointment, as the boy’s fingers turned to claws on the keyboard, hitting and punching until the black and white keys where tinted red with blood and the music had long lost any of the beauty it had once held. What was beauty to him, if it couldn’t fulfil his purpose? If there were no sparks of gold, no sudden waft of colourful smoke, leading him into a new world? He had tried so hard, had given every last bit of his imagination and creative talent to compose his way out. But Christmas came and went, drowning the world in white and forcing Wolfgang to keep a straight face during his Holiday performances. There was no fight left in his small little body, the very rest of his energy being used for continuous tries of finding his magical melody …”