Kenneth Copeland released a Christmas tape and that tape got wore out in my mama’s house. During the Christmas season, it would play all day every day. My older sister, Marnie, and I would use the tape for our Barbie doll’s Christmas rehearsal. He had a really good version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
But the day came when that tape had to die.
One Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in the choir stand during the Black History Month program. The youth choir had just finished our selections and my body was warm with the joy of having given a good performance. The church was thundering under the sound of the applause. They loved us! They really loved us!
As I’m sitting there relishing in the applause, I heard the Mistress of Ceremony, my cousin LaWanda, say, “And now we’ll have a selection from the Tyler children.” Confusion and distress crushed the feeling of satisfaction that had been flourishing seconds before. There is only one set of Tylers in this church. How can it be that my siblings and I are performing unbeknownst to me?
I look up to see Marnie grinning and beckoning us to follow her to the front of the church. I want nothing more than to ignore her. Why is she doing this to me? Isn’t it enough that we just sang in the choir with all of our cousins? Why are you going to ruin this positive moment as if we have positivity to waste?
Oh no, she marched right to the front with my oldest brother, Punkin, and I in tow. When Marcus tried to join the rest of us, Marnie stopped him real quick and told him that his services were not needed. What a pity because my friends, Shame and Embarrassment, Marcus did not know them. He would have stood right there and belted whatever she wanted us to sing.
Turns out, she wanted us to sing “Christmas Every Day” from Kenneth Copeland’s album. A Christmas song. In February. Punkin was to sing lead and she and I would be the back up singers. We stood there for an eternity, not making a sound. Silence reigned except for the occasional, “Sang, children” or “It’s all right now.” I couldn’t even find my parents in the audience because that would have meant heaving my head up from the depths to which it had fallen.
When it became clear to Punkin and I that the only way out was the way through, we started singing with her. It was a mess, but eventually, it was over. I raced back to my place on the pew and kept my head down for the rest of the service. After church, some of our cousins drove us home and all I remember is my Cousin Apples saying, “Y’all didn’t know that song, did you?”
Every time this story comes up, Punkin says, “Ugh! You should have gotten a beating for that!” And Marnie will say, “But I did! I got a whoopin for excluding Marcus.” “Hmph,” Punkin will reply, “It must not have lasted long enough for me to think that justice had been served.”
Marnieeeeee, what possessed you to do that to us? So, what had happened was…Marnie was jealous of a couple of our other cousins who were always being asked to do solos and lead songs. She felt like our family was just as talented as those girls and she was going to let the world know. During the break between the morning service and the afternoon service, she went to Sister LaWanda and asked her if we could be added to the program.
And here we have a clear-cut difference between my sister and me. Marnie, unlike the rest of us, can actually sing. If she were anything like my oldest brother and I, she would have capsized on an opportunity to distinguish herself. She could have sung “Lift Every Voice” and when everyone heard her beautiful voice, she would have gotten all the solos in the world. But Marnie doesn’t think like that. She is always thinking about the group, a trait that in later years has redeemed her from the foolishness that was that experience.
Either way, it was years before I could hear that tape without wanting to fold into myself. Unfortunately, my mother was not the least bit concerned with my trauma. She continued to play that tape like salvation itself could be gleaned from the repetitive listening sessions.
So, I had to do what I had to do. I snuck into her room one afternoon when she was cooking and discreetly snipped the brown strip and put it back where I found it. She had gotten the tape in the mail, so there was no way she could replace it so easily.
Years later, I confessed. I apologized, but still held firm to my belief that the tape had to meet its end. Kenneth Copeland released those songs again a couple of years ago and the album is on Spotify. Marnie and I rediscovered the album last Christmas and hearing it again was like welcoming back an old friend. I hear “Bethlehem Morning” and I see myself laying my head on my mama’s lap in church while she bounces her heels on the floor, her thighs vibrating against my cheek.
I was restless last night, so I had to play “Bethlehem Morning,” to rock myself to sleep. I know, I know, it’s July. Christmas is a long way off, but I can still play the album. Dang, it’s not like I have plans to perform it on Labor Day or something weird like that.