We don’t need any didication: a portrait of an alternative school’s Christmas cabaret

Ahhh, Christmas concerts. The combination of intense shyness, clumsiness and perpetual emotional turmoil proved to be a lethal comination for me whenever Christmas concert time rolled around. In parent(thesis) this is your life in Xmas concerts!

Grade 5:
Morning of the Christmas concert- receive 69% on a geography exam. 69%! The horror! The travesty of justice! (I can still see the test with the big red 6 and 9 glaring at me from the top right hand corner- the first failure is always the hardest to deal with) I Feel like I am no longer the smart sister and must abidcate my title. I cry and cry in the hallway until too exhausted to cry anymore.

Lunchtime: It is A&W day for my sisters and I , which basically means that my mother was too tired to do the groceries. I spill orange pop down my white tights.

Christmas concert:
We are playing the recorder and because I am short, I am in the front row. Red eyed with orange streaked tights, I still manage to pull myself together to face the audience. The teacher makes the sign for us to raise our recorders to our lips and, with a swoosh of her hand conductor style, she motions for us to begin. I blow into my recorder, confident that I know the notes. But…wait a minute… no sound comes out! I blow and blow and blow and nothing happens. Finally, I take the instrument out of my mouth and examine it to find that the mouth piece is completly twisted around. I begin to laugh hysterically, causing a chain reaction of giggles throughout my fellow musicians and effectively wrecking the concert.

Grade 7:
This time, I am playing the flute. Our group must walk from the entrance of the gym to the very middle with our instruments, our music stands and our books and set up quickly in front of the audience of parents and other kids. Easy enough, you would think, but no, not for the naturally clumsy and uncoordinated. I trip on a wire and go sprawling with a clatter and a bang in front of the whole school. My music stand bounces for a minute and the metal against the hard gym floor sounds like thunder. My flute slides like a puck across the gym floor. I, of course, could have taken the graceful way out of this by brushing myself off and making a pithy joke, but no, I chose to run behind a temporary screen erected for the concert crying my eyes out. My mother had to bribe me with new running shoes to get me to come out again.

Grade 10:
Last Christmas concert of my career. Still playing the flute, but now on stage. In the middle of our song, my music stand, teetering on the edge of the stage, crashes down into the audience. It makes a loud sound but thankfully nobody is hurt. For once, I do not cry or even stop playing, because I know this is the last time I will have to do this.

Fast forward to twenty years later and I am back in the nightmare of Christmas concerts. Except it is my daughters who are performing and I am in the audience. Now normally, Christmas concerts are orchestrated affairs, where the children who are not performing must sit quietly on the floor in the front waiting for their turn to assault their parents with bland renditions of Christmas carols that are barely recognizable in the chaos of voices. Not so at our school! This year, the party committee (the school is big on committees, sort of like Soviet Russia) decided to put on a cabaret with parents performing as well as kids. Anyone who felt they wanted to do something for the cabaret could. What followed would have made Sam Beckett proud. From carols that could barely be heard amidst the din of wild children running around playing (I guess alternative means never disciplining your child) , to the weirdest, least coherent but charming version of “another brick in the wall” by three third grade boys, to some Strindbergian skits about Santa Claus. The evening turned out to be surreally charming. Of course, it might have helped that within our group of parents we have two very good micro brewers…
Still tired out at the end of this very long school day, I hear my youngest daughter hum in the back of the car “We don’t need any didication.”
Dum, dum ta dum. Dum dum ta dum. We don’t need no thought control…

Happy holidays, people and may all your Christmas concerts be without casualties!

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