So the church Christmas pageant has three Sunday morning rehearsals followed by an evening dress rehearsal the night before Christmas Eve. Only this year we got about 20 inches of snow the day before the last Sunday morning rehearsal, which meant that it didn't happen. Instead, on Wednesday night a bunch of excited hyper pre-Christmas kids showed up for the first rehearsal with costumes (which weren't done, incidentally), the first rehearsal in the sanctuary (which always leads to insane aisle-running), and the first rehearsal without scripts (which was supposed to have happened that missed Sunday).
They had done a surprisingly good job of learning their lines, but everything else about the rehearsal was pretty awful. It's hard to nail down a lot of the blocking before you have the sanctuary to work with. The kids were pretty crazy. I honestly left the rehearsal expecting the performance to be a disaster.
Christmas Eve I was so flustered that we were parking outside the church when I realized that I was still wearing a pair of jeans and a grungy brown wool hoodie over a faded red T-shirt. "I forgot to get dressed!" I wailed to Michael. He looked down at his own jeans and sweater. "...So did I." It was 5pm. I had told the kids to arrive no later than 5:10. I was planning to be onstage for much of the pageant.
We dashed in carrying the last few props and an eleven pound ham. Threw the ham in the oven in the church kitchen and asked someone who happened to be in the kitchen to put the brown sugar glaze on it at 6:30. I took both kids with me to the sanctuary while Michael ran home to change and bring my clothes. The majority of the kids didn't show up until sometime after 5:30. We had no chance to rehearse, but we did go over my list of Important Last-Minute Reminders: Everyone speak LOUDLY and SLOWLY. Face the audience when you speak. When the Herdmans are being bad kids, they shouldn't actually make any physical contact. When the Herdmans are in the pageant-within-a-pageant, they stop goofing off and take it seriously. Angels and shepherds need to be quiet when they're onstage.
Also in this time period, one of the mothers went to town on the Herdmans' faces with a mascara wand to make them appropriately grimy and smudgy. They were all thrilled to be at church in their oldest and most awful clothes. I did not tell them how adorable they were, because they would've taken it the wrong way.
Ten minutes before the service was supposed to start I herded all the kids out of the chancel to the robing room. No, they were too loud to be there. To the little entryway behind the robing room. Still too loud. To the upstairs hall. I tried to engage them in conversation about Christmas to stop them from shouting and chasing each other. Michael brought me Colin to nurse at the last minute before church. I kept on chatting with the kids on my end of the hall until I looked over and saw a few of them at the other end of the hall looking at me like this: O.O O.O O.O "It's just how babies eat, guys," I said and hoped that I wouldn't be hearing from their mothers later on.
6:05. I marched the kids down the stairs, through the entry, through the robing room, into the chancel, and down the steps to the front pew. There was a welcome and a chalice lighting and then we were on.
And the pageant went beautifully.
We had some luck with the play-within-a-play format, because I could stay on stage the whole time (as a parent helping out the pageant director, very realistic) and move people into place if necessary. But the kids needed very little help. They said their lines beautifully and with feeling. They were mostly in the right place at the right time. They did not burn down the church when I let some of them hold candles. They looked fantastic, even the ones who were in totally makeshift last-minute costumes. And they had the pageant spirit, just beautifully.
Afterward during their shaky and confused bows acceberskoorb
swooped down on me with a bouquet of white roses and, um, something else pretty. I don't know flowers.
And then we went to the Christmas Eve potluck. Last year there wasn't enough food and Michael didn't get any dinner. (That's partly why we brought a ham this year.) This year there was plenty, and we feasted on turkey and ham and smoked gouda mac and cheese and horseradish scalloped potatoes and tzimmes and all kinds of miscellaneous side dishes and desserts. And Alex actually ate food instead of just running around being hysterically excited. (Colin had a jar of pureed turkey-apple-cranberry holiday dinner, because I fall for marketing tricks like that.)
And we went home and put the kids to bed and hauled presents out of hiding places and wrapped a few things and hung candy canes on the tree from Santa and I lost one of Colin's stocking presents. And poured ourselves glasses of red wine and curled up on the couch to watch the first-season West Wing
Christmas episode, "In Excelsis Deo," except that Colin kept waking up and finally we went to bed without finishing it.
Christmas Eve was good. The pageant was wonderful. We have amazing, amazing kids at our church. Is it too early to start worrying about what story we'll do next year?