Deck the halls with fire hazards

Last night was the kids’ holiday program at school.

And by “holiday program,” I of course mean “Santa-centric Christmas show,” because this is the south and apparently here they don’t feel the need to so much as nod to Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or anything else. Politically correct, schmolitically bereft. Praise Jesus, pass the eggnog, and bless your heart if you’re not a church-going Christian, darlin’.


This children have been talking about this for MONTHS. I am not exaggerating. (I mean, I am ALWAYS exaggerating, just not about this particular thing.) Chickadee is in chorus, which is something you actually have to audition for, which is JUST SPLENDID because I think that by fourth grade it’s time to toughen up and get a taste of failure if you can’t sing to the elementary school music teacher’s expectations. Yes! Audition and either get into the chorus or OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!

(They don’t really behead the kids who don’t get in. I mean, that I know of, anyway.)

It wasn’t even until this week that I realized that Monkey would be in the show as well; I knew it was a play of sorts, and I knew Chickadee and the rest of the chorus would be singing back-up, but I hadn’t realized until Monkey told me with GREAT INDIGNATION that his class would be singing “a very important song,” too. Well, okay. That’s great. Two kids in the SAME PROGRAM, for a change. Excellent.

What I failed to process, upon hearing this news, was the subtext that THE ENTIRE STUDENT BODY was taking part—in some way or another—in the show. And I don’t know if you remember the whole existential angst we went through while picking a school for the kids, but one of the things we really liked about this particular school was the small neighborhood feel of it. It is NOT, in fact, a small school; it just feels that way because of how it’s set up. (And also because it used to have a much smaller student body, but has expanded in recent years, although of course the school remains the same size. They’ve added some trailers for extra classrooms, is all.)

Monkey had a playdate yesterday afternoon with his buddy Franklin, and as I dropped him at home, his mom came out to talk to me. “Now,” she said, “you understand that it’s going to be really crowded tonight, right?” We’ve only known each other these last however many months, but apparently my neuroses have shown through loud and clear. Her tone was one that conveyed that she was concerned for my sanity.

“Yep, I know,” I answered. I was thinking to myself: it’s not like I could just decide NOT TO GO. So it’ll be crowded. Okay. We’ll get there early.

“Get there really early if you want a seat,” she continued.

“Well, we’ll head over as soon as Chickadee gets out of practice.” Given our schedule, that should get us there with 20 minutes to spare. Plenty of time.

Hey, GUESS WHAT! Upon our arrival 20 minutes before showtime, it was standing room only. Hmph. I shooed the children off to their designated locations and Otto and I stood near a door towards the front. I would’ve rather been able to sit down, of course, particularly in light of the fact that I AM DYING HERE, but it was okay, really. We could see where Chickadee sat on the risers, and the stage was stretched out in front of us, assuring an unobstructed view of the rest of the proceedings.


Except that was at twenty minutes to curtain. By the time the show started, by my estimation we had well over a thousand people packed into a space designed to hold about two hundred and fifty. By the time the show started, people had lined up alllllllll around us, boxing us in, but also completely cutting off any view we’d previously had. Of ANYTHING.

There should’ve been someone there selling “I went to my kid’s Christmas concert and all I got was a lousy view of the back of your ugly head” t-shirts.

As one of the shorter chorus kids, Chickadee was in the front row of her group, which meant I couldn’t see her at all. Otto is pretty tall, so he held up his bigass camera and snapped a bunch of frames, which later revealed that the one-fourth of her face turned our way looked very nice. She is coming down with my cold and mostly looked tired and uninterested in the pictures. I cannot imagine why she wasn’t COMPLETELY THRILLED to spend an hour sitting on a riser so that she could stand up every ten minutes or so and sing a song.

The classes that filed in to do a single song stood in a clump in front of the stage, sang, and then departed. I stood with some fellow second-grade moms and we all waved when our boys filed in. They spotted us and waved back. It turned out to be good that we waved THEN, because all of them except Monkey’s buddy Leif were in the BACK. Please note that Leif is the tallest of the bunch, and was planted firmly in the front, where he stood looking dazed and bored.

“Why isn’t he SINGING?” I whispered to Leif’s mom.

“Oh, he hates to sing,” she whispered back.

In the meantime, Monkey and his friend TheZ—both amongst the shortest children in the clump—were dead last in the back row, where we could, with much craning and maneuvering, admire the tops of their heads and about half an inch of their foreheads. That is, when they were facing forwards. For 95% of their song, they faced the stage… which meant their backs were to us. Not that it mattered, much.

The boys finished their song and filed out. I did catch a glimpse of Monkey waving to his sister and some of her friends on the risers, as he left.

Throughout it all, people were coming and going. The same man squeezed past me going to and fro about four times, at which point I leaned in to the other moms standing with us and said “The next time he comes past here, I am going to BEAT HIM WITH A STICK.” TheZ’s mom pantomimed subtly tripping him, instead, which I recognized as a brilliant suggestion of a devious mind, and made a mental note not to make her angry under any circumstances.

About ten minutes after Monkey’s group had left, I couldn’t take it anymore. Otto and I had gone in separate cars, so after a quick discussion we decided I would go fetch Monkey and go home, and he would wait for Chickadee to finish up.

Late last night, after the kids were snug in bed, Otto went through the pictures he’d taken. There was an eyebrow here, a tiny slice of mouth there. And an ENDLESS SEA OF PEOPLE. “You know,” I said, while sipping my tea, “I think next year maybe we will all be MUCH SICKER when it’s time for the holiday concert.”

Either that, or much drunker. Either way.


  1. Flea

    Sounds like the Z’s mom is someone you need to get to know better. :)

    This has been our first year of real school and performances. It is just as much fun as you described, and I can’t believe I missed out on this for nine whole years of my kids’ school life!! It’s much more fun than sitting through three soccer games in a row, in the rain. Or having teeth pulled.

  2. Sheila

    First year of school for my oldest, I hurried in to the Christmas program while my husband was parking the car and rounding up the others. I sat in the pew (concert was in the church) and spread a few coats around me to make some (but not an OVERLY amount) of seating room for my family. Whereupon a woman, whom I had never seen at school nor on the playground, walked over, SHOVED my coats violently aside and said:

    “We don’t SAVE SEATS in this parish.”

    Ahh, joy to the world!

  3. ImpostorMom

    Sounds totally claustrophobic.

    Gotta love the South with the one-sided Holiday traditions. I thought of that the other day as I looked at the Christmas tree in the lobby of the STATE agency where I work.

    I prefer to think of the Christmas tree as the pagan symbol that it originally was. Then I get to chuckle a little bit.

  4. Susan

    We arrived at my kindergartener’s program 20 minutes early. He was required to be there 15 minutes early to get ready, so we thought we were good. Wrong. As if it isn’t hard enough to take the 4, 3 and 1 year-old to watch the 5-year-old, when there is nothing to see but the sea of heads in front of you it becomes a nightmare. To think we have 17 more years of this is just frightening.

    Off to get everyone strep-tested. Pray for me.

  5. Jill

    T-shirts like that might be great school fund raisers.

  6. Flea

    Susan, they won’t be 4, 3 and one forever. The pageants probably won’t get easier, but getting everyone there and back will.

  7. Sharkey

    Next year, invite the fire marshal. He will be required to shut the thing down due to fire code violations, bless his heart.

  8. All Adither

    Perhaps they should consider another venue.

  9. Megan

    Not one of my three is in a performance-related activity this year. I know I should be concerned about stifled creativity and one-sided kids but ohhhhhhh baby am I loving this. I suffered through grade school singing concerts and middle school orchestra/rock band nightmares and now I am in the bliss of high school. To make up for it I do a great ooooh and aaaah every time Child 1 brings home another pot from ceramics.

  10. Lori

    Oh joy! I’m glad you survived!

    Susan – are we suppose to pray that they all have it (so you can get antibiotics) or that they don’t? I’m betting you’d like those antibiotics! We just finished a plague of strep around here and those antibiotics are now my best friend! I love to see shining, happy, formerly miserable kids go out the door to school. *grin*

  11. hollygee

    ImposterMom — when my mother was dying, I went to the Social Security office in her North Carolina town to get her signed up for Medicare [she didn’t believe in doctors so had not had the need for it before — and as she lived to 91, perhaps she had something there]. The entire time I was being interviewed by the woman in the office, she had an evangelist preaching on the radio behind our interview. I was amazed and astounded.

  12. carrie

    Ah, things are just the opposite in our PC neck of the woods. At a kindergarten/preschool show last year, 10 mintes were devoted to Christmas, 15 to Hanukkah and a grand total of 30 minutes to Kwanzaa — despite thte fact that there was not a single African American person on stage, in the audience, or, perhaps, for miles around (and those we know in town don’t celebrate Kwanzaa anyway). My daughter became completely well versed in Kwanzaa — except that she thinks its that Jewish thing we do and asks why don’t we use the red/black/green candles in the menorah? And we do why insist on calling it a menorah instead of a kinara? Thanks, Kindercare, for the awesome education!

    Definitely do drunker next year — it’ll be just as bad, but you won’t care as much.

  13. hokgardner

    I think spiked egg nog is the solution. Thankfully, my oldest daughter, the only one in school at the moment, doesn’t have any school performances this year. Whee!

  14. Aimee

    Maybe it’s because of the recent wildfires here, but all I could think when I read the part about the THOUSAND people was “Fire codes!”

    I think a different venue is a very good idea. And platform shoes, for you. ;)

  15. Leandra

    Okay, as the resident southerner, I have to pipe up that we’re NOT ALL ignorant hicks around here. We DO recognize other religions — in fact, my five year old came home from pre-K singing the Dreidel Song AND a Kwanzaa song the other night. Now in the Kwanzaa song he did get a little confused and start singing something about a camaro, but at least he was trying! :)

  16. Tootsie

    Oh, you should totally toss back a few next time. That is just insane! Our elementary school is huge (1000 kids total) and there is no possible way that kind of arrangement would even work. The 1st graders are the only classes that do a holiday program and even that they break up into 2 nights because there are 6 1st grade classes. But things like the fall festival fundraiser, where everyone is in attendance out on the athletic field, you are parking blocks away and hiking. Better to leave the car in the garage and walk in some cases.

    If you make that shirt I will buy it.

  17. StephLove

    ‘Tis the season. I just got home from my first-grader’s Holiday Sing. It was held in the cafeteria that gets pressed into service as a auditorium for occasions like these. Since it’s in the daytime there were just a few rows of folding chairs in the back of the room for parents, but it was standing room only. The band was onstage, the choir on risers in front of the band and all the pre-k to 2nd grade students sitting on the floor. (Non-choir 3rd to 5th graders go tomorrow. There is no room in the school big enough for all the students.) I could only see my little singer when the first-graders filed into the room and when they raised their arms in the air to do hand motions to the Twelve Days of Christmas. I recognized his arms by the green and red sweater he was wearing. This song, incidentally, got thunderous applause compared to everything else, probably because the parents caught glimpses of their kids. It was all very cute, but I’m wondering how enthusiastic I will be about watching the same program two days in a row when I have a 5th grader and a kindergartener four years hence.

  18. saucygrrl

    “And by “holiday program,” I of course mean “Santa-centric Christmas show,” because this is the south and apparently here they don’t feel the need to so much as nod to Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or anything else. Politically correct, schmolitically bereft. Praise Jesus, pass the eggnog, and bless your heart if you’re not a church-going Christian, darlin’.”

    Oh heavens… we just got into a huge, um, discussion on this very point at my blog. People love them some Jesus, not that I don’t, but I don’t see why we can’t give other holidays equal acknowledgement and such.

    Well, they might not show up to a meeting about their education, but those parents sure did support their children’s Christmas cheer. So, um, Yay?

    I don’t think anyone would notice, next year, if you are drinking from a flask… just sayin… ;)

  19. jenn

    I was just going to say… next year, flask. With perhaps a little festive Bailey’s and peppermint schnapps. I bet those around you would love to share. Oh, and I like theZ’s mom.

    With the auditorium being that ridiculously crowded, isn’t there some way they could, I don’t know, do one short little pageant or performance per grade? Or something? I mean, has it not occurred to them that parents want to SEE their children perform? What a nightmare.

  20. Headless Mom

    I think the beer, or other drink of choice, in a Starbucks cup will work wonders. No one will ask because everyone has a Starbucks habit. I did this last year for evening baseball games for both boys-I loooved going to games!

  21. elswhere

    You want real Canta-centric Christmas extravaganza, come North– waaay up North, like what I am. Here in the urban, sophisticated Greater Vancouver Region? Christmas trees in the libraries! Santa decals and angels on the schoolroom windows! Unapologetically ungenericized Christmas Parties at the workplaces! I’m not even making a fuss this time around– just bemused by the whole thing.

    Oh, and my kid’s whole school also participated in a Christmas show last week– in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the very same show as your kids’ (it’s a canned program, designed for whole schools to put together). It was all about Santa. She was a reindeer.

    Anyway, sorry to hear about the crowds. I second the idea about high heeled shoes. and the flask. Only, maybe not at the same time, now that I think about it.

  22. Kimberly

    Bwa ha ha ha hah! Yep, that’s a Christmas pagent. Only differences with Diva Girl’s the fact that it was Jesus centric, what with the whole Catholic school thing. Oh, and the parents who muscled their way to the front to video preshus little Maddysonne’s lisping through Silent Night and then had to REPLAY the video during MY kid’s song. Harrumph.

  23. Burgh Baby's Mom

    I’m so glad we have already had this exact same thing happen ( and can now consider it out of the way. Right? It won’t happen again, right?

    I’m totally calling the fire marshall on my way to next year’s program. I’m not willing to ponder “Does he have keys in his pocket or is he happy to see me?” while standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a sea of strange parents ever again.

  24. Wendy

    Sure you had your own little piece of Christmas program hell, but were you scolded about your loud and non-moving toddler in front of the whole gym. Apparently, it is not nice to trip the live nativity scene and I have the magic powers to make an almost 2 year old sit still and be quiet.

  25. daysgoby

    Amateurs! (she said worldly, having last night been to her first child’s first elementary school Christmas based-program in which he was a…wait for it…pumpkin…

    Hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. I may set up a stall next year….

  26. D

    I’m glad you and Otto survived it – sounds very crowded and hot. I’m for the fire marshall – or the t-shirts.

  27. Deb

    LOL!! We had ours last night, all christmas, nothing else. Of course in our very small town I wouldn’t expect much else, not sure if they realize other holidays take place this time of year. ;-) But I love love love the suggestion above about setting up the hot choc and peppermint schnapps…imagine how much money you would make!!! :-)

  28. Linda

    Um, I’m sure someone else has brought this up in the comments (haven’t had a chance to read them all), but where are all these parents when its time to show up for their children’s educational needs.

    Totally befuddles me.

  29. kidzmama

    That cup of tea at the end of the day puts everything into perspective.

    I’m with Flea, TheZ’s mom sounds like she’d be a great friend.

  30. kate setzer kamphausen

    *I* think PUNK CHIC is the way to go next year. Spike your hair up really high with aquanet or gelatin, wear the tallest platform combat boots in the state, and choose all your clothes to be (a) red, black, or red-and-black, and (b) form-fitting. It’ll be awesome.

    Or, something.

  31. Brandy

    Whoa! Georgia may be one state over, but it sounds as though it’s alot more tolerant there than SC. Although I homeschool my kids, I hear about all the local school holiday programs. The WINTER HOLIDAY programs. No Santa, no Religious references at all.

  32. Flea

    No no no. Mir says her face is the width of a vermicelli noodle. Stop and think about the spikes going up – she’d look like a punk stick person. A better look for her, designed to frighten in the south, would be the Big Hair and Full Face look. Find a Mary Kay rep, Mir. Do it right.

  33. Brigitte

    Like Linda, I was wondering why all those slacker, non-participating parents chose THAT night to show up!

  34. Vane

    Wow … my daughter goes to a private school so the total number of students is not that large and even so, the christmas program is divided into 2 (one in the morning, one at noon) so as not to have a crowded auditorium and also not an overly long progam. I always enjoy going to her shows, but I’m not sure I could stand it if it was like yours, sounds painful!

  35. wookie

    Wow… you’ve described my personal version of hell on earth.
    I do better in crowds if I have a task… like lining up kids about to go on. That way I can say I was there and that I saw them, but not have to be trampled by the unwashed masses.

    Unfortunately, you now have to have a police background check to volunteer each and every time you want to volunteer at our school. Not such a great thing to find out 5 days before the event :-/ “Please volunteer with at least 6-8 weeks notice to allow for paperwork processing.

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