My favorite Christmas gift from 2020

My favorite Christmas gift from 2020

“And…scene,” I said out loud to my empty garage. We had done it: our pandemic patio pageant had been successful. (Take THAT, 2020!)

While the garage door closed, I thought back to the first rehearsal, five weeks ago: how meeting in the garage with masks was a normal request, how I lost the kids’ interest about halfway through the hour, then said, “Okay, it’s backyard playtime!” as if I had planned it that way, how I wondered if an outdoor Christmas pageant during a pandemic would be an utter flop.

We told the parents that we were creating a surprise for them. They had to know what we were doing, given that my partner-in-crime was a 6th grade theater veteran and the favorite “big kid” of the Kindergartners. I kept saying, “I don’t know what the end product will be, but it will at least be something where there would have been nothing.”

In a way, that’s sort of how the children’s Christmas pageant is each year. You never really know how the production will shape up. You just hope to create something meaningful and cute that somewhat conveys the story of Jesus’ birth.

And in this year, of all years, having something where there would have been nothing is a success in and of itself. You didn’t have a birthday party, but you had a birthday drive by. You didn’t go out for date night, but you ordered fancy take out. You did everything and ANYthing outside with your quaran-team just so you wouldn’t lose your mind.

As I hit rewind on the night, little details stuck out to me:

How our 6th grade director had gotten 10 other kids (mostly rowdy 3rd grade boys) to do vocal warm ups.

How, two minutes before the show, our Kindergarten sheep came up with the announcement: “No talking” and “Silence your cell phones.” I love this organic aspect of live theater: it was nothing that I planned, but might have been the biggest smiles we got from the audience.

How the technology actually worked and we were able to play recordings of the piano songs that the kids had practiced at home.

How everyone remembered their lines!!!

How sweet they looked when they stood near their siblings and performed sign language to my favorite Christmas song (“That’s Christmas to Me” by Pentatonix).

And the most meaningful- how all the family members gathered around the table at the end, we lit candles, and sang carols. To me, this is always the highlight of the Christmas Eve service. Whereas at church, we just sing “Silent Night,” this year, we started with that one, but we ended on “Feliz Navidad,” with everything from “Joy to the World” to “The Grinch” in between.

On a personal note, my six year old was originally going to be in the pageant, but continued to act out at rehearsals. Last year, at our church, I kept him in the performance, and he sort of ruined it for the other kids. (You know it’s bad when you have other five year olds tell you, “Mrs. Gosser- maybe he shouldn’t be in the play.”) So this year, I explained that he would design our program and be our usher. During the performance, I looked over at him, expecting him to look sad because he wasn’t included. He looked perfectly content, and I realized that just because I was sad for him didn’t mean that he was actually sad for him.

And then, during the candle lit carols, we started singing “Here Comes Santa Claus.” We had gone around the circle a few times, and had settled into singing just one verse from each song. The group stopped singing, ready to take the next suggestion, but my six year old kept going. He was belting out the lyrics, not aware of his own solo. When he noticed, he sidled up next to me, “Sing with me, Mommy!” I know that we all have memories that wouldn’t have happened without this pandemic. That, for me, was one of those moments.

Back in November, I made a list of all the things we could still do during this Advent season. Sure: I miss the parties, the festivities in Chicago, and spending time in the homes of my friends.

However, as we come closer to Christmas Day, I feel cozy and content. Christmas is about light and love and warmth. I sit next to my Christmas tree and see the decorations, smell the cookies baking, and hear the music and favorite movies playing.

And I am so grateful that my 6th grade co-director and all the parents humored my idea of a pandemic patio pageant. Never have I felt such light, love, and warmth while outside on a 30 degree December day.

And…scene.

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