The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

For his “event” present this year, I decided to take Clayton to a play. It was a long conversation, via email, with his dad, who decreed that he thought Clay would enjoy it. Mindy worried he’s never be able to sit still that long.

They were both right.

I found that The SteppingStone Theater was putting on a production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. SteppingStone is a children’s theater, with productions done nearly entirely by children, from set design to costuming, to performance. They are supervised by adults, and adults to perform if the role requires an adult, but it is a true children’s theater.

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This is the outside of the theater, a majestic old bank building.

Clay and I had prepped for this with a long conversation. He had a million questions. It isn’t like going to a play at a theater is an everyday occurrence for him. He’d seen plays at school, but this was a first, otherwise.

He wanted me to tell him the whole story beforehand, so he’d know what to expect.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story:

It is about a small town that puts on the Nativity story, every Christmas Eve, at the church. Nothing changes, year after year. Then, this year, the woman who runs the pageant breaks her leg. This causes the mother of the main family to get drafted into the role. Things go downhill when, the worst family in town, six children named Herdman, suddenly decide to visit the church for the first time EVER. They want parts in the performance, but they don’t know the story. So the story of the nativity gets told throughout the play. Everyone thinks that this year will be terrible because of the Herdmans, but they are all surprised when it turns out to be The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. There is also singing and childish humor.

It’s adorable. Really.

We found street parking a couple blocks away and plowed through the snow to arrive plenty early for the performance.

Outside, there is a cool sculpture and I told Clay to go and “pose” by it. He took me literally.

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We went in, picked up our tickets (after a lengthy discussion of “will-call”) and then we hit the bathrooms before the show. Clay said he didn’t need to go. I tried to talk him into it. He held firm. I again had that nervous experience of me using a bathroom while he stood, alone, in the hall. I told him to talk to me the whole time. He sang. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Then, it was off to our seats. I told him he could pick, and he chose two near the back. He didn’t want to be up close. I think the idea made him nervous.

Then it was a wait. About 20 minutes. It’s a lot to ask of a six year old. I pulled out my phone to get a picture of us. I showed him how you can turn the camera to catch the world, or back on yourself. He LOVED that.

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One nice one.

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One silly one. (Check out the girl in the back…she is very interested in what we’re doing…)

Clay then spent the remainder of the wait doing this:

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I clicked the button so he could have hands-free for this shot. 67 deleted photos.

Just before it began, he caught me looking at the program. He asked about it and I told him what it was. We then looked it over and we noticed that one of the actors attends Clay’s school. He’s older than Clay, 4th or 5th grade, I can’t remember. Clay thought it was neat that he had a connection.

Then, as I handed him the program, an envelope fell out. He picked it up and asked what it was for. I told him that places like this survive on donations so that they can continue to offer programs to children. He asked me a few questions and then said, “can we give them money so that they can keep doing this?”

It was sweet. And this was even BEFORE we saw the play.

I promised him I’d send them some money. And I did. First thing in the new year.

Then the play began. Clay sat quietly and absorbed. I could almost feel the words, the music, the atmosphere leaching into him.  When I laughed for the first time, he looked at me in surprise. Then he laughed. It was as though he didn’t know it was okay to laugh out loud. I never thought of what it must be like to experience that for the first time. To not know the rules. Then, he laughed at will for the remainder.

About midway, I glanced over at him to make sure he was still with it and he was curled up in his chair, no shoes, no socks. It was nice he felt comfortable enough to make himself at home.

In the last few minutes, the bustle, the laughter, the music and the commotion die down and the play becomes about the heart of the story. It’s tearful and simple and sweet. And placed in entirely the wrong spot. The sentiment should come early when the children are captivated. By the end, Clay was twitchy and restless. Not at all ready for the slow change of pace.

But, we endured. We made it through. When it was over and the lights came up, I clapped and he put on his socks and shoes. I gave him a nudge and a look and he clapped as well.

We walked outside of the theater to find the entire cast lining the walkways of the exit. You had to pass them to leave. Clay was  bit intimidated by this. I didn’t blame him at all. It was like walking out of Alice in Wonderland to find Johnny Depp and Tim Burton standing there–you know they just want to hear you say it was amazing. But I need time to think and absorb.

Clay and I bolted for the exit and were the first ones out the door.

As we strolled back to the car, leisurely, so he could stretch his legs and play in the snow, he stopped and turned to me and said, “did you like it?”

I told him I liked it very much, but I wanted to know his thoughts. He said, “I liked it, it was funny.”

He then asked me some pointed questions which led me to believe that while he understands that movies aren’t reality, he was a bit confused by this. It reminded him of a movie, but it was real, with real people. He wanted to know if everything we saw was real. That took some explaining.

Then he said, “what was your favorite part?”

I said, “seeing it with you” and he laughed and said, “I knew you’d say that, you ALWAYS say that.”

And he’s right. I always say that. Because it is always true.

And his favorite part was the songs when the Herdmans sang different from the rest of the choir. Those were the funniest moments, so I can’t say I blame him.

Then, we talked about the play the entire drive home, which was just a little bit more of my favorite part.

Just shortly before we got to his house, he said he wanted to push my garage door opener in my car (it’s built in and it fascinates him). I said that once we parked he could push it all he wanted. He wondered, naturally, if my garage door would be going up and down. I told him that it wouldn’t because we were out of range when at his house. He wanted to know how close we had to be. I said “about 5 car lengths”.

That prompted a discussion of what “car lengths” means. It never occurred to me that was an odd way of measuring. I described its meaning and he grasped it immediately. Then we talked the rest of the way about how many car lengths different things might be.

Now, this is a weakness of mine. I’m not great at estimating distance.

He asked me, “how many car lengths is it from my house to yours?”

I asked how many HE thought it was,  “a million?”

I said, “no, probably more like 200”

200 car lengths seems like a LOT to me.

Then I told him to ask his dad when we got home. Of course, the second we walked in, he raced up to Tom and asked him. I explained our conversation and then Tom got very quiet. For the next couple minutes, Mindy and Clay talked about our play. Then I glanced at Tom and he said “2,XXX” He had been doing the math that whole time, figuring out exactly how many car lengths. Finding the distance to my house, getting the average length of a car, etc. You really gotta love Tom.

I can’t remember the exact figure he gave me, but I rounded it off to about 2,000 car lengths. I was only off by a factor of 10. TWO THOUSAND. I’m floored.

I can’t even imagine what a line of 2,000 cars would look like, but in my brain it seems so much further than the driving distance between our homes. I’m so bad at that type of thinking.

We then played and chatted for a bit until Tom’s mom, Teri, showed up to watch the boys, as Tom and Mindy were coming home with me, to officially warm my new house.

As Saturdays in December go, this was one of the best.

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