“What’s wrong?” Carol’s mother asked as they cleared away the dinner dishes. “Your birthday is just a week away and I thought you’d be happy and excited. It’s always been such fun to have your birthday in December. Your father and I named you Carol because having you for a daughter makes it seem like Christmas all year round.”

“I’ve always been excited before, but this year is different,” Carol answered.

Her mother looked puzzled. “What’s different about this year?”

“Well,” Carol began, “today at school Julie, Kay, and Krista decided to have a birthday party for me and they want it to be a caroling birthday party.”

“That sounds fun!” her mother exclaimed. “And I’ll make some hot chocolate for everyone. But why aren’t you happy about the party?”

“Mom, you don’t understand. You know I can’t sing. All that comes out when I try is a squeaky and embarrassing sound, especially when compared to the beautiful sounds Julie and Krista make when they sing. I love to hear them,” Carol explained.

“Everyone can sing,” declared her mother. “And I’ve always enjoyed listening to your singing.”

“That’s just because you’re my mother and so it doesn’t count,” Carol said. “You love me anyway, no matter how I sound.”

“Indeed I do,” Carol’s mother answered as she finished washing the last dish. “And I hope you won’t let the party plans spoil your birthday.”

For the next two days Carol thought about her problem. How could she go on a caroling party and not let everyone hear her squeaky voice?

She suggested that the party be changed to a sleigh ride, but the girls said they’d rather go caroling.

I wonder if I could learn to sing before the party, she thought, trying to be a better sport.

Every time she was alone she would practice “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” and “Joy to the World,” but the songs didn’t sound at all the way Julie or Krista sang them. Her voice squeaked and cracked and she couldn’t reach the high notes.

“Why does my birthday have to be in December?” she grumbled. “But the party’s for me so I have to go.”

John, her little brother, poked his head into her room and teased, “If I were you, I’d just mouth the words!” Then he laughed and hurried to shut the door before she could answer.

“Very funny,” Carol called after him and threw a pillow toward the closed door.

Sitting glumly on the edge of the bed, Carol suddenly beamed, “That’s just what I’ll do,” she said. “I’ll mouth the words. No one will even hear my squeaking.”

That night as she and her mother were doing the dishes, she confided. “I’ve figured out how to have fun at my party.”

“I’m glad,” her mother answered. “I’m sure you’ll have a good time.”

The night of the party, Carol bundled up in her warmest clothes and left with a big smile on her face.

“Happy birthday,” Julie and Krista greeted.

“We’ve never been caroling before. We can hardly wait,” several other girls said.

“We’re all here,” Kay shouted. “Let’s go.”

The group stopped first at Mrs. Caulder’s house where strains of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” floated onto the crisp night air. Carol moved her mouth with each word but didn’t make a sound.

This is great, Carol thought, as they walked on. I’m going to have a good birthday party after all.

“Do you have a cold or something?” Kay asked Carol. “You haven’t been singing.”

Carol was embarrassed. “I didn’t think anyone would notice.”

“What do you mean?” Kay persisted.

Carol tried to laugh. “I wasn’t singing because I can’t.”

“Neither can I,” Kay admitted.

“But you were singing!” Carol said.

“Sure! Anybody can sing Christmas carols. They’re so beautiful they make you forget everything else!”

“Not if you have a squeaky voice like mine!” Carol argued.

“Mine’s funny too. But I just think about the words,” Kay explained. “I could never sing a solo, but in a group like this it’s great.”

Think about the words, Carol reminded herself as the girls began singing “Silent Night” at the Langstons.

Carol listened carefully to Kay—“Round yon virgin mother and Child, Holy Infant, so tender and mild.”

Kay’s voice strained at the notes and squeaked almost as much as Carol’s, but the words came out loud and clear and full of meaning.

Carol joined in the third verse, but the squeaks and high notes were still there. She strained and tried harder, but nothing helped. She was sure Krista was staring at her out of the corner of her eye.

“I can’t do it,” Carol said to Kay as they walked on.

“You’re still worrying about the notes,” Kay said. “Think about the words instead.”

“I’ll try,” Carol promised.

The crisp winter air became colder as the girls moved on to the next house and started singing.

Carol took a deep breath and joined in, “Hark! the herald angels sing.” At first the words came softly and reluctantly, but as she thought about their meaning, Carol sang with enthusiasm. “With th’ angelic host proclaim Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Her heart suddenly took over and she felt as if she just had to let the whole world hear those beautiful words.

“Wow,” Krista whispered to Carol as they walked on. “You really sing with feeling. Everyone is sure to get the Christmas spirit when you’re around.”

“But I don’t have a beautiful voice like yours,” Carol protested.

“That doesn’t matter,” Krista said. “It’s the enthusiasm that counts.”

“That’s right,” Kay agreed, and winked at Carol.

“Let’s sing ‘Carol’s carol’ again,” Julie called as the group stopped before the next house. “That sounded great.”

Carol’s heart was filled with happiness as she thought of the meaning of the words and then sang out with the other girls, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Illustrated by Julie Fuhriman