Thursday, December 22, 2005

So last week was the Christmas concert

Last week was the concert for the elementary school my two younger sons go to. I had to have them there half an hour before the concert started, so there was nothing to do but go to the gym and get a seat, along with the rest of the crowd of bored, impatient parents.

So I had a bit of time to reflect. I remember so many Christmas concerts as a kid. That moment before the curtain went up, when we could hear the buzz of the crowd out there, and knowing that my parents were there waiting. The sounds and smells are still the same, only now I am out in the crowd waiting. Many of the parents around me had small children. When my oldest son was in the early grades I was often at the concert with one or two toddlers. They would get totally bored because they couldn't really see anything, and I would always hope they wouldn't get too noisy and I wouldn't have to take them out and miss the concert myself. Thankfully, I never had to. But it wasn't that long ago for me that I didn't sympathize with the young parents trying every trick at their disposal to settle down their restless toddlers, glancing around to detect signs of annoyance in their neighbors, hoping they could stay for the duration of the concert.

It really makes me think how time has marched on. My first school Christmas concert as a parent was when my oldest was in preschool - my second son was a babe in arms and the third was an unimagined blip in the future. A few years later, I had two kids to watch on stage and only one toddler. One year all three of them were in the concert. And now the oldest has passed on to junior high, so I only have two to watch. My youngest is in grade 3, so as hard as it may be to believe, I will only have three more years of Christmas concerts. This familiar school gym that I have already been coming to for nine years will become a memory, a place of nostalgia, a place I may visit occasionally at election time if the polling station happens to be there.

The music starts and the kids start filing into their places. Matthew, in grade 5, is in there somewhere but I can't see him at first. Then I find him, and he is peering out looking for me. When he's looking in my direction I stand up and wave, but I'm almost at the back of the gym so I know he can't see me. I do the same thing when the younger kids come out, and Jacob, in grade 3, is looking for me. Neither of them ever see me, but they know that I'm there, and I guess that's what counts.

It makes me think of the concerts in Mannville, where usually both of my parents and my paternal grandparents would be there. It just felt good knowing that someone cared enough to be there to watch me. In addition to the school concert, we usually were in a play at the rural community hall, which used to be a one-room schoolhouse. One of the local ladies was a schoolteacher and she would press into service all the kids from our district. For a couple of weeks we had to spend our school lunch hours rehearsing. It was always some corny play for which I had to wear a ridiculous costume, and memorize a few lines which I hated, but it was worth it because when the play ended it was party time. Santa would come and hand out gifts, and there would be, of course, treats to eat. One year my grandpa was Santa, and I was old enough to know that it was him, but mature enough to know that I shouldn't ruin it for the little kids. When it was my turn to go and get my gift from him, he was grinning at me with twinkling blue eyes, and I don't think I said anything to him except "thank you," an unspoken understanding passing between us. I really miss my grandparents at this time of year.

When the party was almost over, the dads would go out and start the vehicles, then bit by bit we would all go out into the cold night, to drive down the dark country roads to our homes. The chores would have to be done early the next morning as usual, so nobody lingered too late.

I don't think they have those parties down there any more, but if they did I would like to take my kids. They are always baffled when we go to my hometown, trying to figure out how I can know so many people who are strangers to them, and how they can be related to so many strangers too. But although they are city born and raised, it is part of their heritage because it is part of what has made me what I am, for better or for worse, although I think it is mostly for the better.

Well, this is a very long post. To any who read it, have a wonderful holiday season and super new year.