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.