This is the time of year when our young people participate in holiday programs and productions. It has been that way for decades and I expect it will continue to be so. Do we need to go and watch them perform? Yes, I think we do.
When my mother was a first grader at a country school in Arkansas, her part for the school Christmas program was to be the “R” in a poem about Christmas. She worked and worked to memorize her “piece” and then forgot it all when it came time to speak. She looked from the stage into the audience of adults from her small community and could not utter a word. Her older brother came to her rescue and prompted her in a stage whisper with the words, “R is for…” and finally she spoke her part. “R is for ribbons and rings…” she said.
Those words became kind of a verbal talisman when my brother, sister, and I were growing up and were expected to perform before others. Whether we were involved in a church, school, or community performance, that phrase was spoken as a reminder that the rest of us were there with our love and support. And we always were. My parents made sure that if one of their children was on stage, the rest of us also were there; perhaps not issuing a far-off whispered cue, but at least in the audience as the best support staff in the house.
Fast forward to my years in Peabody – my six regular readers and others are aware that The Mister taught instrumental music for many years. I want to share a particularly sad event he experienced following a Christmas program. I no longer remember the year.
The program had been a success. The high school and junior high bands performed well. The grade school band had made their presentation a week earlier at the elementary school concert, but courageous sixth grade soloists and ensembles bravely took the stage to cover up the shifting of concert band personnel and they did a stupendous job!
The traditional “Christmas Story” with the shadow boxes depicting the Biblical verse, accompanied by appropriate Christmas carols, had gone off without a hitch. Santa made his run through the gymnasium in a sleigh pulled by eight stalwart junior high reindeer, tossing candy at the crowd as he went. “Stille Nacht” had been performed in the best Mannheim Steamroller style, and the evening ended with the high school stage band rocking out as the crowd departed and the students put away all the equipment.
When I left the school snow was falling at a good pace and the weather was deteriorating rapidly. The Daughters and I were home long before The Mister.
When he finally arrived, he told of a solitary junior high student in his white jeans, short-sleeved shirt, and junior high band vest, standing by the stone ledge out in front of the Brown Building after everyone else had gone. The boy was waiting for a parent to come pick him up, but he wasn’t sure if anyone even knew he had been in a Christmas concert that night.
Of course, The Mister took him home and life went on. However, what a sad night it must have been for that boy!
If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, please make an effort to attend their school event this holiday season. They have worked hard to create a program of which you all can be proud and they would love to have you in the audience. Need a way to remember to do this? Here you go – “R is for ribbons and rings.” My mother and I are happy to share that with the rest of you. Happy holidays!
— SUSAN MARSHALL