I remember the buzzy excitement of a school concert. It’s nighttime yet you’re not at home, you’re back at school. The dark empty halls have the elicit feel of a store after hours. You leave your parents and prepare in a classroom—warming up, putting on special clothes. Then you walk out onto stage in front of a crowd, the blue flicker of flashes and a sea of lenses pointed at you. After the concert you find your parents in the crowd, receive adulations, and run around in circles with your friends on a crest of adrenaline.
Last night I got to experience this from the other side. I’m no longer a child, I no longer perform for the parents. Toddler Harbat’s preschool held its Christmas pageant at the church next to school and I felt incredible vertigo as we sat in the pews and I realized I’m the parent now. The place was packed with anxious families and TH was sequestered in her classroom with the other kids to get their costumes on. The whole thing had the feel of a wedding, with people murmuring and craning around to look down the aisle to see if the procession had begun. As if on cue everyone stood up and people crammed the aisles as the kids were brought in the transept doors and sat in the pews in front. This first group was the younger kids including, presumably, Toddler Harbat. Then the older kids marched down the main aisle in itchy costumes.
Thus began the I-can’t-see-my-kid competition. When you have no stage, flat seating, and three-foot tall performers, you aren’t going to be able to see even if you spent five hundred bucks on your new HD camera and you’ll be damned if you miss little Tyler singing “Mary and Joseph Riding on a Donkey”. I snuck up a side aisle and finally spotted, for half a nanosecond, Toddler Harbat’s face and her lamb costume. Then she was obstructed by the parent paparazzi and I retreated to my seat. I realized that you either come an hour early for good seats or bring a periscope and a telephoto lens. I would show you the few pictures I took but just imagine a watercolor left in the rain of a group of kids that may theoretically contain my daughter. Like a summer storm, as soon as it began it was over, the kids were led back out the side door and I raced up just to see a glimpse of TH’s face as she left. I never saw the costume or even caught her eye. It was like stalking a celebrity: lots of crowds, nothing to see, and a few grainy pictures of the back of someone’s head.
But that’s not the point of the Christmas pageant. The real meaning of the holidays is, naturally, sweets! Imagine every parent and extended family member of a hundred kids each bringing a box of cookies. If you do some quick math you’ll know that the per capita consumption would have to be one box. Somehow the post-pageant celebration didn’t do this math, and we ended up with hundreds of thousands of cookies on a sea of folding tables. Who knew there could be such variations in sugar and flour? Toddler Harbat had one. Then another. Then some lemonade. Add this up with post-performance rush and you get this.
And now I remember the joy of school concerts and for the first time can appreciate how magical it is as a parent to watch your kid present something they’ve really worked hard on. Or in Toddler Harbat’s case, sit in a pew with a sheep hat for fifteen minutes. Happy holidays!