by Beth Boswell Jacks
Like a good grandmother, I motored to Mobile for Meredith’s musical (how much alliteration you want?), and was in teary granny mode at the end when 10-year-old Mer sang a beautiful solo. She was spectacular, of course, and the whole program was presented with not a single glitch.
Arriving home, I bragged to hubby G-Man about this amazing grandchild and her talented classmates, whereupon the Big G began to chuckle as he remembered his own 10-year-old Christmas theatrics.
The year was 1954. The place was Pearman Elementary School. The Santa Claus was G-Man. The plan was for all the fifth grade class members to sing “Here Comes Santa Claus,” at which time G-Man was to appear and, with a grand flourish, open his bag and present toys to all the girls and boys. Little toy horns and little toy drums, rooty toot toot and . . . well, you remember.
The children had worked long and hard on the cardboard scenery, which featured a Christmas tree and rocking chair beside a fireplace with a cleverly designed slit through which Santa was to crawl.
On cue, G-Man began to push through the fireplace slit. Problem was, he’d never practiced with the big ole dumb bag of toys. The bag wasn’t coming with him. He jerked. He tugged. He squeezed. He began to panic, realizing those toys weren’t going to make it and the song was winding to a close. Desperate, he gave one last gigantic yank and brought the whole 6-foot cardboard fireplace down on his head.
Yes, I truly believe Meredith’s flawless Christmas play was the exception. Holiday performances are prime occasions for flubs, even if it’s only tiny chillun mixing up words like “sleep in heavenly peas” or “while shepherds washed their socks by night.”
Maybe you’re familiar with the story about the bad boy (every class has a clown) who brought his pageant to a halt, when, as the Innkeeper, he grinned at Mary and Joseph and said, “Sure, we’ve got plenty of room. Y’all come on in.”
And then, same spot in the story, on another stage in another town, Mary and Joseph were being turned away when a little girl in the audience yelled, “My mommy always makes reservations!”
My dear friend Helen, a feisty octogenarian, recalls her most memorable childhood Christmas pageant. “I was an angel with crepe paper wings,” she says. “But on the way into the church sanctuary, one of my wings just – clunk – fell off. To hide my wing-less predicament from the congregation, I stood sideways during the whole production. It’s funny now, eighty years later, but that night I was one pitiful angel, singing my glorias straight into a brick wall.”
Well, there are embarrassing moments and then there are REALLY embarrassing moments – like the one described to me by a writer pal named Gilda.
Gilda’s cousin, a merry, full-figured elementary choral director, dressed in a red sweatshirt and slacks, was all set to lead her little choristers into the auditorium when a friend handed her a red Santa cap. The jolly choir director plopped the hat on her head, gave the kids the signal to follow her, and they began their procession.
Now there’s a kid with an eye for detail.
Special wish: May all your pageants be inspiring and heart-warming with maybe one teeny-tiny flub that will leave you laughing over the years.
Editor of USADEEPSOUTH, Beth Boswell Jacks is the author of 3 books (Grit, Guts, and Baseball and Snippets I and II) and is also a weekly columnist for a number of Southern newspapers. Readers and editors may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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