There are a lot of things that go along with being parents that Nathan and I have never really experienced- including the age-old rite of passage that is The Christmas Program (from the audience's perspective, anyway). Toad's parents asked if we might be interested in coming to his, and since we were going to Quail's ballet recital at the end of the week, we figured why the heck not?
It's about 12:25 when we roll up to the kindergarten parking lot. The program starts at 1:00, and the doors open at 12:30. I know that my sister-in-law (Toad's mother) has been here since the school opened for visitors at noon, holding a spot in line. It's possible I think this is overkill...
...and then I see the line.
Nathan and I sign in and take our place at the end. I have no idea where the beginning is, but after a few minutes of standing I tell him I'm going to try to find Toad's mom. I trot down the hallway until I get to a corner, turn it, and trot down another long hallway until I go through a pair of doors into a breezeway, where I turn another corner, and continue to follow the line. Every once in a while I have to dodge a handful of thigh-high children who obviously have their own traffic pattern that has nothing to do with the adults.
At last I come to the closed doors of the gym, where my sister-in-law is about fifth in line.
She was there at noon. And she still wasn't the first. Arriving an hour early was not, in fact, overkill. Arriving a mere half hour early might actually qualify Nathan and I as "late".
I hug her and let her know where Nathan and I are, and then I begin the long trek back.
After a few false starts the line begins to move in earnest, and before too much longer we have shuffled our way into the gym, where an entire row has been reserved (thanks to the seat-holding powers of the otherwise pointless dark green programs) for Toad's assorted family members. They're great seats- or so I think until all the tiny singers have trooped in wearing their various costumes and taken their various places and I realize that somehow I have selected the exact perfect seat to block my view of Toad. Like, seriously- I couldn't have chosen a worse seat if I'd actively been trying to do so.
So I squirm and I strain and I focus my Irritated Glare at the back of a few heads until I manage to crane myself into a position to see him in between a pair of shoulders, and then the singing begins.
...I use the term "singing" loosely, because it doesn't quite capture the beauty of this experience. I tell you, there is nothing quite like 200+ kids shrieking in off-key, unintelligible chorus- unless it is 200+ kids shrieking in an off-key, unintelligible chorus with a Southern Drawl. Precious. I suddenly understand the original purpose for the dark green programs: without them we'd have no clue what was being "sung".
It's more than just singing, of course- there are also choreographed hand and arm movements, which have the added benefit of serving as a sort of percussion section, since all of the kids in green (including Toad) have jingle bells attached to one wrist. Some children have a better understanding of rhythm than others, which is only adding to the cacophonous chaos.
They are pretty cute, tho', although I hadn't realized until now just how large Toad is for his age. And it seems I'm not the only one who thinks they're adorable: parents have begun flinging themselves at any and all photo-ops, questing always for the elusive "better angle" (apparently I'm not the only one who Chose Poorly in regards to seeing the only moppet I'm actually interested in). I do mean "flinging" quite literally, by the way; one dude falls next to my chair and honestly it's kind of hilarious.
Speaking of funny, the next time I manage a glimpse of Toad I see that he's pretty much just phoning it in. His singing seems distracted, and his movements are... lackadaisical, at best. Underscoring this complete apathy is the sheer enthusiasm of the little girl to his right: she is really into it. As a shameless performer myself, I can almost hear her thought process: Must make up for slacker neighbor! More jingling! Faster!
I feel you, little overachiever girl. I feel you.
We are nearing the half-hour mark, which is what I have privately decided is about the limit of what my bony butt can handle of these hellish folding chairs, and we discover that there is, in fact, one part that all the children bothered to learn: at the very end they all yell "P-K-S!" in perfect, joyous unison.
(Yelling is easier than singing, I suppose, and comes more naturally to that age-group.)
The audience bursts into thunderous applause, and I feel certain that I'm not the only one who's feeling a deep and abiding gratitude at the timeliness of that ending. Cute kids or not, my derriere needs a serious change of venue.