A Senior Remembers: Her First Christmas Concert

Christmas concertAll I could think about all day was the stage. It was there, filling up the whole front of the room, with big planks of wood going right across, and stairs going up one side and down the other. We all took turns walking on it at recess. The boys bounced on it when Teacher wasn’t looking, but when I went across, it didn’t move at all.  There was a wire hanging from the ceiling, with a long curtain pinned to it, and it could be pulled right across to hide us. The curtain smelled dusty, but the stage smelled like the sap that came out of the trees on our farm.

The stage was a surprise. On that morning, when we shook the snow out of our coats and hung them up, and stamped our boots until the snow was off, we came out of the cloakroom and there it was.  It was the first stage we ever saw. Teacher rang the bell, and we sat in our desks. That was when she told us; we were going to have a Christmas concert. She said  we were going to sing Christmas carols together on the stage, and we would have to go on and come off in a single file. Some of the kids could do a dance if they wanted to, and some could sing a song with just two or three of them. All of the girls put their hands up really high so Teacher would say their names, and when she didn’t, they reached higher and waved, going, “ugh, ugh, ugh”. The boys didn’t say anything. Except Billy. He asked to be the curtain puller, and Teacher said, “Yes”. Some of the other boys were poking each other and some were on the floor rolling marbles under their desks. I didn’t say anything. But I was thinking. I was deciding what song I was going to do.

When Doris took us to the back of the room for reading, it didn’t bother me that she was bossy. I didn’t care when she said, “Sit up straight and pay attention”, when she saw me looking at the stage instead of the book. I knew the story anyway, and I didn’t want to listen to Doris today, even if she was one of the big girls. But she gently bonked me on top of the head with a ruler, so I paid attention after that. Teacher talked about the concert all day. She said we could sing a song about Christmas trees, and our mothers could make costumes out of green crepe paper. She asked if anyone knew a dance, and my sister June said she could do the highland fling. Katie and Irene and Lois said they could sing a song they heard on the radio. Teacher told us about a play we could do about Jesus in the manger. I didn’t say anything about my song, because I was waiting to tell my mother.

When I got home, I told her, and she said, “Really?”  Like she didn’t want me to do it. But then she said I could, if June would do it with me. And April could let you use her doll, she said.  “Only if I can hold her.” April said, because no one else was allowed to touch her doll.  My Dad even said he would help me learn the song. And that was how we decided to sing, “Miss Polly Had a Dolly” for the Christmas concert.

When the concert started, the Christmas tree song was first. It was the whole school singing it, so it was loud and very nice. All of the big girls joined arms and rocked back and forth, even though Teacher said, when they were practising, not to do that. You could tell it was a happy song. Our paper costumes made a swishing sound and only fell apart a little. Katie and Irene and Lois sang next. Lois sang an extra verse by herself and wouldn’t get off the stage. Teacher made a hissing sound, and reached out from behind the curtain and pulled her off. Then it was time for the manger scene. I didn’t see much of it because I was doing my song to myself, and thinking about the words. But I did pay attention when my sister went up the stairs to do the Highland Fling, because I knew we were next. She was the prettiest girl in the school, and everyone was very quiet when she danced. She danced so hard, her hat flew off, and I could hear my mother laugh and say, “Oh no!”, in the audience.

Then June was finished, and Billy pulled the curtain closed. I went up the stairs and behind the curtain with one of the big girls and my little sister April, because April was carrying the doll.  Then Billy opened the curtain. I turned around and I could see the whole audience. I could see my father and my mother holding my baby brother. I could see April going back to sit down. I could see everyone else, even the family down the road.

I knew all of the words. I could hear them in my head,

“Miss Polly had a dolly that was sick, sick, sick
She called for the doctor to be quick, quick, quick.
The doctor came with his bag and his hat.
He knocked on the door with a rat, tat, tat.”

I didn’t sing the song, so June started. She picked up the bag and the hat. She knocked in the air and said “rat, tat, tat”.

She even said my words, “quick, quick, quick,”

There was no noise in the audience. Nobody moved. Only my Dad. He got up and went outside. I saw him go.

“He looked at the dolly and he shook his head
Miss Polly, he said, put her straight to bed!
He wrote on a paper for a pill, pill, pill
I’ll be back in the morning with my bill, bill, bill.”

I still wasn’t singing, so June sang the rest of the song. When she got to “Miss Polly, put her straight to bed”, she reached over and took the doll from me, and put her in the cradle next to us. Then she pretended to write on a piece of paper, and sang, “for a pill, pill, pill.”

She took my hand gently then, and led me off the stage. I went straight to my mother, and sat on the bench next to her. She hugged me close and whispered that I was her good girl. Then she said I should give April her doll.

“Oh, that’s okay,” April said, and she softly patted my hand, “You can keep her all the way home.”

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14 Responses to A Senior Remembers: Her First Christmas Concert

  1. I wonder if your mother knew you would need your sister. It was a brave thing to do, getting up on that stage. Have you performed on stage since that experience?

    When I was little my Mom wanted me to recite “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” alone on stage at a Christmas concert. The concert was at the one room school house down the road from my Granny’s. I was just too shy to do it. I pretended not to learn the poem so I wouldn’t have to go on stage. It is interesting that later in my life I began to do on-stage poetry readings; the appeal was sharing my own words, as opposed to mouthing someone else’s. I am a sharer, not a performer, I guess.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Thanks, Maggie, for sharing your own memory about Christmas concerts. I’m very much an introvert, but didn’t realize, until that experience, how shy I really was. I have always hated to speak in public, whether it was as a result of that experience or not. However, I became a teacher, and ultimately made presentations at various teacher conferences, so I guess I got over it!

  2. Lois Toutant says:

    Such a lovely touching story Diane. I could almost feel your awe and fear at the sight of all those people from up on that stage. When I was about 4 my brothers and sister taught me I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover to sing at a concert in the one room country school where we grew up. No stage but I got up by myself and belted it out. I was even a gregarious fearless person then. I won third prize -50 cents! I know I got that prize because I was so little. – really have the worst voice in the world. Needless to say I never sang again!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      We stay true to form, don’t we Lois? I’m still an introvert and you are still a really big person in a tiny body! Thanks for your sweet comment.

  3. Virginia says:

    This certainly has made me remember some of my own elementary school experiences. Oddly enough I just realized although I also had my share from the other side of the desk as a kindergarten and a first grade teacher, none of those concerts I orchestrated sprung to mind. I guess I’ll leave those memories up to my former students who are all grown up now.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Also a primary teacher, the concerts I worked so hard to produce for so many years faded out of my memory as well. They are just a blur! All I remember is the exhaustion!

  4. Diane,
    Your story is so very well written that I could feel every little nuance. What a time that must have been for all of you. The first time to see and perform on a stage and for you to realize that you were so shy. Thanks for sharing your story with us at the Senior Salon.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I’m so glad you “got” the story, Bernadette. I realize the “A senior remembers” pieces tend to be a little obscure. It’s so great to have them appreciated!

  5. Linda says:

    I echo Bernadette’s comment. You have a lovely blog. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      As I mentioned to Bernadette, I am so happy that some readers “get” the more obscure pieces in the “A senior remembers” stories! Thanks!

  6. Aunt Beulah says:

    This is a delightful Christmas memory, reminding us of the funny things that happen during school productions, especially where costumes made of crepe paper and student choice are involved. The ending to your story is terrific, highlighting the sister relationship and how kind we can be to a sister we know is disappointed or hurt. I loved every word of this post.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Thanks for reading and appreciating my writing. It’s so wonderful to be read by this community of bloggers!

  7. Brenda Cullen says:

    This brought back so many good memories. I grew up in the country and went to a one room school. I am probably one of the few people that missed my first day of school. The school was short one student to remain open. The board asked my parents if they would consider starting me early. I was only 5 years old . After much discussion, they decided to let me start school
    The Christmas concert came around and I think because I was the youngest in the class of 8, my teacher, Miss Sage asked if I had a doll. I indicated yes her name was Tickie. She asked if I could bring my doll to be in the manger. I said I would ask my Mom.
    I was beside myself. My Mom indicated it be be fine.
    I washed her face and took her to school.
    I was the proudest little girl that my Tickie was in the manger at the concert.
    Tickie is with me after 56 years and when I look at her I see her in the manger at the Christmas concert with “a clean face”
    Keep up the good writing Diane, so enjoyable!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Brenda, that is such a touching comment! You must have a wonderful memory to be able to recall not only the name of your doll, but your teacher’s name as well. When I recall my childhood, I think that my community must have been the only place with a one room school house, so it’s great to know there are others! Lovely story about Tickie!

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