Sunday, December 11, 2011

The least-half-assed Christmas pageant ever

Today was the kids' winter pageant. It was our first one in a Unitarian church, and it bore more or less no resemblance to the pageants of my childhood. Celebrating an almost ridiculous number of religions, it consisted of a parade of children with little readings--mostly from parents, but also from older kids--about the religions in question. Oh, and in between the congregation sang words that almost fit the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It was nice enough, I suppose, and it seemed like they were working under entirely different constraints than we did when I was a kid, which is to say that they had no rehearsal time and no idea which kids would be there on the day of the pageant. Lauren ended up doing one of the readings, while holding Thea, who was holding a star. In my mind, that made her the star of the show.

The pageants of Christmases past were, by and large, the usual Christian fare: Mary and Joseph and shepherds and angels and wise men and wise guys. My mother was often critical of these--not the kids, of course, but the adults who were running it. Really, we were a fairly small, rural church--you can't expect off-Broadway Christmas pageants. As volunteer things not infrequently are, it was probably half-assed more often than not, put on by someone under-qualified and not particularly ambitious, either.

Neither of those adjectives described my mother in this arena, however, and one year she put her money where her mouth was, running the Christmas Pageant.

The first thing she did was throw out the script. We all know the story, so why bother telling it badly? Mom spent her working life teaching elementary school, mostly 5th grade, and at some point she had acquired a big book of Christmas stories that she would read to the kids. My mom loved reading out loud to the kids, and anecdotal evidence suggests that they enjoyed being read to. For that matter, I seem to remember loving when our teachers would read us stories throughout elementary school too. I wish I could remember the title--or, really, anything--about the story she chose, but I'm pretty sure it was something about bells. And then I'm pretty sure she paid someone in the community to write for our pageant a script based on this short story. Mom was determined to do it right and spare no expense.

My memory of the event is, admittedly, pretty vague. I think it was well received... but perhaps not as well-received as Mom would have liked for all the trouble she went to. In any case, that was her one and only foray into the dramatic scene of rural northern Ohio churches. I won't say, though, that it was because of a bad experience. I like to think there were just more half-assed things going on that she had to prove she could do better than whoever was making a mess of it.

Seriously, though, I think what sticks with me, with all the specifics stripped away, is the simple fact that she wanted to do something different and she wanted to do something well. The same old same old just wasn't good enough. And that's one of things I love my mom for teaching me by her example.

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