Avoiding Christmas Play "Crashes"

Martinsburg Journal, Sunday, December 20th, 2009

The pileup involving four tractor-trailers on Interstate 81 last Sunday morning made the front page of the paper. The accident and the icy weather that caused it definitely were worthy of headlines.

But what didn’t make the news was the fact that the icy roads also prompted the postponement of the Christmas play the kids at my church put on each year. The annual play now is scheduled for today, and I’ve always looked forward to it. It’s quite a hoot.

You can count on the kid who forgets his lines or is too nervous to speak above a whisper. There also is the child who has no clue where she is supposed to be and wanders around aimlessly until someone sets her straight.

Props often don’t cooperate, and there always is the danger of one of the kids tumbling off the stage. It’s not perfect, but perfection can hardly be expected. Besides, it’s not why we go, anyway.

Usually, one of my kids does something that provides my wife and me with chuckles that last well into summer, not to mention fodder for blackmail when they are older. Take last year, for instance. When the show was over and all the kids had taken their bows, they were arranged in the front of the church so parents and anyone else who cared to could take a group picture.

There was a lot of nose-picking, poking, nudging and general acting up. Not one kid was paying attention, except for my then-7-year-old daughter. My wife noticed first and leaned into me.

“Do you see that?” she whispered, nodding her head at our little girl, her eyes bright with amusement.

Amid the on-stage chaos, our daughter was sitting there with her hands primly folded in her lap and her head tilted just so. She affected this pose for so long that she had clearly begun attracting much more attention than just ours.

Other parents were pointing at her and stifling giggles. While the director of the show was trying to get the other kids to settle down, our daughter sat frozen in her best red Christmas dress and a perky smile on her face.

Later, when my wife asked her what she was doing, she said, “Mom, all the parents were taking pictures!” Yep, that’s my daughter. She’s never met a camera she hasn’t posed for.

Now, this year, things could be different. I must admit to some pre-show, stage-parent jitters. While my daughter always is enthusiastic about anything that allows her to be center stage, my 11-year-old son thinks he’s too old to participate.

But after enduring pleas from the director about how sorely he was needed and how the show just couldn’t go on without him, he relented. (Actually, he was bribed with promises of a new video game. That and food are his weak points.)

To make matters worse, on top of his initial reluctance to even be in the play in the first place, my son also is being subjected to having to do a scene with his sister. That’s like throwing a match on a big puddle of gasoline. My kids are at the age when they cannot, under any circumstances, stand to be in the same room together. So, if you see me in church today, you’ll know my kids have taken to the stage when I start praying.

I’ll count myself lucky if they get through their part of the show without causing an on-stage wreck to rival the one on the interstate last week.

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