Okay, so last night was our daughter’s [Seasonal] concert. The big time. It’s happening. A public acknowledgement that we are now PARENTS OF A SCHOOL AGED CHILD. And we can’t pretend that we’ve got a wee toddler toddling around any more. She’s in kindergarten and unless she fails colouring, will most likely be in Grade 1 next year and so on and so forth.
I took an hour off work so I could get home in good time to get over to the school. In my experience, for most concerts, there are explicit instructions for arrival times, places, etc but for Audrey’s concert it was disturbingly vague. The concert started at 6 pm. That’s all we knew.
“So what time does she need to be there?” I asked my wife. “What does she need to wear? Does she report to the kindergarten room? The music room? Go straight to the gym? What’s the plan here???”
The concert was offered twice yesterday, with a “Matinee” at 1:30 pm, which my wife also attended.
“I don’t know. All I know is that the kids were in the gym when I got there and they were rehearsing as parents filed in. I don’t know where we take her tonight.”
I worry about these things. And by the time my Mom arrived from across town, it was already 5:15 pm and I was getting anxious.
“I think we need to get going, right? I mean we want to get a seat, get a good view of the stage and whatnot, right?”
Audrey was already pretty pooped from the afternoon show, and she was in no mood to get the ol’ “fancy dress” and the ski pants on again, so as it turned out we drove over to the school, even though it is just a 5 minute walk. I went in with Audrey, and my Mom and wife went to park my Mom’s vehicle down a “secret street” that only a select few know about.
The school was already buzzing with excitement. I had no idea where to go, but the doors to the gym were still firmly closed, so that wasn’t an option. I thought maybe we should head down to the kindergarten room, but it was locked and the lights were out. What next? Where do we go from here? There were a couple of tables set up by the front doors, filled with homemade baking and questionably named “Joy Jars” for sale. Now I don’t really know what a “Joy Jar” is, aside from the fact that it sounds like something you might find in the bargain bin of a Swedish Sex Shop, and I didn’t bring my wallet so Audrey’s repeated requests for a cookie went unheeded.
Where was everybody? Did I get the times wrong?
No wait, here was Audrey’s teacher, Ms. M, flitting down the hallway with a eggnog spiced latte in one had and the kindergarten room’s keys in the other.
“Sorry, sorry! I got delayed at the Starbucks!” she explained as she opened up the door. Audrey and I filed in and like magic the room was suddenly filled with both the morning and afternoon kindergarteners and their parents. I got her ski pants and jacket off, and decided it was okay to leave her there. I wasn’t sure what happened after, and I didn’t want to ask the teacher, so I spotted a friendly face, a Mom to one of Audrey’s classmates and asked her instead.
She was well-informed.
“The kindergarteners go first and when they are done they sit on the side and watch the Grades 1 and 2’s do their thing. Then everyone files out for an intermission and you don’t need to go back for the Grades 3-6 part. You can pick Audrey up in the kindergarten room after.” She had, like my wife, been at the afternoon concert too. I asked her how she liked it.
“It was surprisingly good. Not like the Jr. High school’s concerts. They are kind of shit, but I’d never say that to my son.”
By the time I got back to the front doors, my wife and Mom were just coming in, and the Gym was open so we made our way in.
There were still good seats available, and my first impression was how small the gym felt, compared to my own memories of my own elementary school.
Before long, Ms. M led the kindergarteners onto the stage. Audrey’s hair was sticking up at the back and the ribbon on her dress was all dangling behind her. I got this look from my wife as if to say, “You didn’t comb her hair or make sure her dress was done up?” and I shot a look back which hopefully conveyed “Look, no one told me to do ANYTHING and at least she’s wearing shoes. I didn’t even stick her shoes on. She was still in socks when I last saw her.”
There was nothing to be done about the hair, but the ribbon was a tripping hazard so one of the other Moms who was in the front row called Audrey over to the edge of the stage and did her ribbon up for her. This all happened out of my Mom’s line of vision so she started to say, “Where’s Audrey? I don’t see her!” and I tried to explain about the minor wardrobe malfunction but she was soon in place (front now centre, I dare say) and all was well. I caught Audrey’s eye and waved to her, and although unsmiling, she waved back and that little gesture meant more to me than you might think.
A bit about the concert itself. It clearly wasn’t a “Christmas” concert, but it didn’t really even feel like a “winter” or a “seasonal” concert either. It’s theme was something like “Let’s celebrate the hell out of everything EXCEPT Christmas” and for the next 45 minutes we got a Bollywood style song and dance number from the grade ones, a German pop song from the grade twos, and even African drumming from the grades ones and twos with a number accurately titled “Celebrate Africa”. At one point, the kids were singing about “Eid”. I asked my wife if she knew what it was, and she said “Is it an aboriginal thing?” I had to look it up when we got home. Nope. Close though.
Even though the word “Christmas” was never uttered out loud, the school is infused with Mennonites these days, and Christmas motifs were snuck in here and there. For example, the music teacher played actual Christian carols (without words, obvs) as the kids filed on and off the stage, and the principal wished the audience on two separate occasions in her address “Hope, Peace, Joy and Love”: the four cornerstones of Advent. It was as if she was winking at the Christians in the crowd and also saying, “Suck on THAT, School Board!”
Still, it was a very entertaining evening, and I was happy to see it. But my favourite part was that little moment before the concert began, where I made eye contact with a nervous 5-year-old in the front row, and exchanged the smallest of waves. That filled me with all the hope, peace, joy, and love that I could take, and that was enough.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
From everyone here at the Mountains Beyond Mountains’ lighthouse, see you in 2015!