Nativity! (Part 2)
Going along to the school Nativity play it's always best to get there early.
Arrive early and you are sure of getting one of the seats in the front couple of rows in the school hall. Seated on the three quarter sized chairs, those first two rows provide a perfect view of the extravaganza to come.
So, on the Friday before Christmas, arriving some twenty minutes early I was confident of bagging a prime spot in our daughter's school hall to watch her performance. How wrong could I have been?
Entering the hall I found the not only first couple of rows full of people, but in fact most of the seats already occupied.
It appeared that most of the elderly population of our village had turned up to the show and, in common with many older people, they preferred to be very. No VERY. Early to the show.
This year the school had decided to produce a non traditional Nativity. Bear with me on this one, but essentially it was a story about how jungle animals were afraid of thunder. Having realised the thunder presaged the arrival of the Star that would lead they (and the three kings) to Bethlehem, they lost their fear and proceeded to worship the Christ Child in the stable.
This of course explained our daughter's pride at being cast as a lion in the Nativity play.
Things didn't get off to the best of starts.
A couple of bars into the first song one of the three kings whose position required he stood centre stage began to look pale. Then, very quickly the poor chap looked quite flushed. Then he proceeded to vomit all over his feet.
Let no one say our daughter and her classmates are not true stage professionals. As the old saying goes, 'the show must go on'.
And indeed it did. The four and five year olds presents, resplendent in their giraffe, monkey, lion and zebra costumes carried on with the opening song and dance routine regardless.
Edging around teachers who were bravely trying to mop the stage, the assorted children completed this and their succeeding numbers. Ending the show, flushed with success, suitably arranged around Mary, Joseph and the crib, accompanied now of course by the two remaining kings.
Previous Nativity performances have tended to be quite eventful too.
Our son is now too old to partake, but over his Nativity career he progressed from being a sheep, to Joseph and finally the Angel Gabriel.
His first performance, as a sheep being cared for by older shepherds, wasn't particularly auspicious. Bored of scooting around on all fours halfway through 'While Shepherds Watched..' our then four year old son decided to detach the foam sheep's head attached to his costume.
Throwing it at the audience with abandon, our son was delighted when someone threw the sheep's head back at him. And so, for what felt like an eternity, the macabre game of catch with his foam sheep's head continued while the rest of the flock and shepherds dutifully sang their carol.
Given his behaviour during this first Nativity Play I was slight incredulous when his teacher informed me he had been chosen to play Joseph the following year.
"Are you sure?" I asked the young teacher, not quite believing what I was hearing.
"Oh, yes," she replied. "He's very confident, I'm sure he'll be fine."
Indeed, our five year old son approached the performance with the dedication of a stage professional. Lines, all three of them, were rehearsed, as was pulling the donkey around the sitting room.
The 'donkey' turned out to be one of our son's classmates who walked alongside Joseph and the statuesque figure of six year old Mary, on their way to Bethlehem.
Sadly, at the performance we attended, the 'donkey' decided it was his job to knock on the door of the Inn. Mary, and more importantly Joseph, realised this wasn't what should be happening and began to remonstrate with their donkey.
This much to the consternation of the Innkeeper who had opened his cardboard door to find Mary, Joseph and the donkey scuffling outside, much to the hilarity of the audience.
The following, and final, Advent performance for our then six year old son, therefore needed some 'wow' factor. Or, at least, that's what he believed.
Cast as the Angel Gabriel. Having some of the longer lines in the performance. Our son felt the need to impress.
J and he worked for a number of nights constructing the outfit. Wings that would appear as he pulled a cord in his costume and a 'surprise' even I wasn't allowed to see.
The night of the performance came around. The lights dimmed as the Angel Gabriel appeared to the shepherds. His wings appearing to a gasp of appreciation from the audience.
Then the 'piece de resistance'. At the touch of a switch the Angel Gabriel's headers lit up with fairy lights. That began to flash.
Slowly at first. Then faster.
Then chasing themselves around his head. Then reaching rave proportions of flashing intensity.
Audience and performers were stunned by the sight.
"I told him not to play with the settings," J hissed under his breath next to me.
We have two more years of Nativity plays to go.
I look forward to them with increasing trepidation. How on earth can our daughter trump her brother's performances?
Somehow, I feel sure she will. And I despair at the thought.