Christmas has recently passed, and as is often the case with this most-festive of holidays, the time between Christmas and New Year’s evaporates faster than a glass of rum-loaded egg nog.
Which is why it is nearly January and I am just now getting around to finishing this screed that I began nearly two weeks ago.
So, despite all the time-consuming drama that goes with getting ready for Santa’s annual visit, I will state this upfront: I love Christmas.
I love everything about it, mostly because there are so many traditions involved with the holiday, including, but not limited to…
–The barging of my truck into the Christmas Tree lot so that I can overpay for a 9-foot-tall Noble Fir tree.
–The brawling between my five-and-six-year-old daughters over who gets to open the day’s Advent Calendar candy slot.
–My wife pledging to keep it “simple” this year regarding gifts…And then calling me over less than 10 minutes later to see her computer and the her latest Zulily.com shopping cart filled with $300 worth of adorable outfits for our girls.
For me, all of this was prelude to the Christmas Day prime rib.
But there is one other tradition that is fairly new for my wife and I, and one that millions of parents experience once their kids get into elementary school: The school holiday concert.
Actually, scratch that. It’s not even called the “holiday concert” because I guess such an innocuous title would offend someone who’s opposed to a federal “holiday” where they don’t have to go to work. And don’t even think about calling it a Christmas Concert. Just saying the word “Christmas” on school grounds is almost enough to make a troop of ACLU lawyers magically appear from behind a playground tetherball poles and slap a second-grader with an injunction for offending someone’s sensibilities.
Nope. At least where my kids go to school, it was called the “Winter Concert.” Personally, I don’t know why anyone wants to “celebrate” winter. When it comes to winter, all most people do is complain about how cold it is. Although, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, “cold” is very relative. I grew up near Seattle, so I know about driving on the occasional icy road and enjoying the glory of a school-canceling snow day. But I’ve lived in and around Oakland for 16 years and have never seen one flake of snow within 200 miles of the city limits, and when the temperature hits 50 degrees, the locals act like we’re stuck on an ice flow up in the Bering Sea.
But, the Winter Concert it is. And this being 2015, when you have children involved in any school-related activity, it is practically mandated by state law that you show up for the shindig. Never mind if you have prior commitments. Like gainful employment.
Of course, when I was kid, the only time parents ever showed up on school grounds was to pick their kid up when he or she did something really bad like throwing up in the classroom. The Christmas Concert was also held at night and always around 7 p.m. so as to allow most parents a chance to get home from work, feed their kids, and [probably] have a drink or two before subjecting themselves to what seemed like three hours of off-key renditions of “Good King Wenceslas” and other Christmas classics.
Not anymore. The Winter Concert at my kids’ school started at 9 a.m., and by the time I found a seat in the last row of the auditorium, the place was more crowded than when I saw Mudhoney at a Portland, Ore. bar on New Year’s Eve 1993. I surveyed the situation. My daughters are in the transitional kindergarten class, also called TK, [She didn’t turn five in time for the regular kindergarten class] and first grade, and based on where I was sitting, the position of the risers at the front of the stage and the amount of people that kept slipping into the place, I determined my viewing point was about equal to having a giant sequoia tree in my face. I got up, and managed to find a standing spot a few feet behind and dead center. With my 6-foot-2-inch height, I had a pretty decent view of the performance area.
As I waited for the show to begin, more parents arrived. Judging by the number of people there, I have to assume that everyone with a kid in this school is either a stay-at-home parent, an unemployed bum or works for a place with a very liberal vacation policy. And when you’re in a public situation like this, it’s had to not overhear the people around you. I couldn’t help but catch a few conversational snippets that gave me some insight to my fellow concert dwellers:
–The parking lot was PACKED!
–I didn’t know I was pregnant for about eight or nine weeks!
–We’ll play the “Old Woman” card to get a seat.
–It’s too big! I can’t do it with one hand!
[For the record, I think the woman who said this was referring to her new iPhone.]
Before too long, the show began. Our five-year-old daughter, Little Sis, took the stage along with her TK classmates and the regular kindergarten kids and managed to adorably bleat their way through something harmless about, I believe, a snowman named Suzy. I have no idea if Frosty was unavailable.
Then came our six-year-old, Maddo, and the first-graders. They got two numbers, one of which was “Winter Wonderland” and the other wasn’t. Everyone applauded and then, with my kids’ parts done, I did like millions of parents at thousands of such concerts around the country and made a beeline straight for the exit.
Based on how many folks fled the scene after just the first two numbers, I think there were plenty of seats available by the time the fifth-graders performed. I don’t know what the other kids sang, but I have to assume that none of the tunes were “Silent Night”, “Deck The Halls” or, especially, “Fairytale Of New York” by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl [and the single-greatest Christmas song of the last 30 years]. They may have all done “Winter Wonderland”, for all I know.
And while Santa certainly didn’t show up on the school grounds, we made sure to welcome him with plenty of milk and cookies and Christmas tunes at our home.