Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I was always a Jingle Bell

I was raised Catholic. Here in the lovely city of Calgary, that means you can be educated in the Separate School System (aka: Cat Lick School). The Proddy Dogs were usually at the other end of a shared playing field, whereupon we would re-enact with snowballs, basketballs, the hurling of outrageous invective, the Battle of White Mountain, the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and the Massacre of Merindol nearly every recess. Essentially, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. We Catholics nearly always won. We were the noodle-fed sons and daughters of Russians, Ukrainians, Italians, Poles. They? HA! We laughed at their weeny Kentish shanks.

Come Christmas, though, there was one thing that united all of kid-dom, no matter at what end of the field you happened to be.

Every year, we would be forced to dress up in our mom's terrycloth bathrobes if we were shepherds, our too-short or too-long nightgowns or communion dresses if we were angels, our grandmother's finest chenille throws if we were Magi.

Or--much worse: We were Jingle Bells.

(Best not go down that road. That way lies madness.)


Last night we attended Kid's Holiday Concert. The children sang beautifully. They expertly played the xylophone and the glockenspiel. They confidently chanted odd modern lyrics to The Blue Danube ("Strauss, he was the best/He was better than the rest") and The Entertainer ("If it's ragtime, it's got to be slow"). Four of them (bless their hearts) gallumphed with dignity across the stage in a sort of Clydesdale-inspired homage to waltzing. They proved to us all that they were special treasures, talented beyond all expectation and compare.

It drove me freaking nuts.

No humiliation. No ill-disguised parental glee at the discomfiture of shepherds in pink floral bathrobes. No flubbing of lines. No pants-wetting Magi. No weeping Joseph. No general laughter when everyone realizes that the girl playing The Blessed Virgin is perhaps the least suitable 12-year-old to ever have been considered for the role. No audible gasp as Ulli Pentarizzo thunders out in green tights as the (mustachioed) First Christmas Tree. No looks of commiseration for the moms of the Jingle Bells.

Think about it: the 30-minute sweat-soaked melee that represents getting them to school every morning; replacing every single freaking mitten at least 12 times; the leftover meatloaf sandwich that lurks at the bottom of the backpack for 7 days before crawling out and begging for water; feet that grow a size every three weeks; their chuckle-headed inability to wipe their own noses in this forsaken land of the 7-month winter; the endless fart songs; the knock-knock jokes that end "and then the car went into the pool. Get it? GET IT?", being volunteered to bring two dozen cupcakes that represent the provincial and territorial flags, finding 100 pieces of pasta to put in a clean jar so they can all see what 100 of different things looks like--with a five minute warning.

Is it too much to ask that the school give us ONE LOUSY NIGHT when we get to turn the tables on our offspring? A little pointing and laughing would go a long long way, is all I'm saying.

HEY SCHOOL: You want me to chaperone a field trip to the frozen tundra?

That will be one Jingle Bell Holiday revue, please.  

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