Holiday Memory: No stage fright at holiday pageant
The highlight of 1930, my last year at our country school, was the Christmas pageant.
Every year as the holiday approached, we would have short plays or skits of some sort, which amounted to a less sophisticated form of public speaking. Hardly anyone was left out of these exhibitions, and the plot often became unwieldy, obscured by an excess of characters.
This time, the problem was solved by having the Christmas program be a pageant, “The Herald Angel.” Most of the children would have a singing part in the background, while only one would narrate the events of the story.
This was the only time of the year when the parents were invited to attend, so whoever got the speaking part would have a real, live audience. But since I was the background type of person, there was no doubt in my mind which place would be mine.
So you can see how amazed I was when Mr. Kvinsland, the principal, announced that I was to have the only speaking part. “Who, me?” I came near to falling right out of my seat. I was sure I’d never make it.
Weeks of preparation were disturbed only by a girl in a robe with an unlighted candle, who now and then fell on her face in a dead faint. Otherwise, we were pretty well rehearsed by the important night.
The lights on the small stage at the back of our new third room gave off a soft glow. The parents sat expectantly somewhere out in the hushed darkness. The curtains finally parted, and the show was on.
Suddenly, as if by magic, my bed sheet became as of gossamer, while the foil and cardboard crown on my head gleamed like a halo. The same familiar old carols, sung in childish ardor, turned hauntingly beautiful.
And wonder of wonders, I went through my lines without faltering!
When the curtains finally rustled across the stage, closing us from view, I was gasping with excitement. Then, from the wings, rushed Mr. Kvinsland, right past all the other actors, to grab me by the shoulders and administer proud pats on my back.
The thrill didn’t wear off all the next day, and I wore the battered crown until it virtually disintegrated and fell right off my head.
Now, 60 years later, every time I hear Christmas songs, it takes me back to the moment in time when a proud pat on the back won in a country school changed my life. The magic hasn’t worn off … and I don’t think it ever will.