From Pipi’s Pasture: The country school Christmas program
Since I’ve gotten to be an adult, I’ve tried to “bring up” the same wonderful feeling of anticipation that I used to have when we kids got ready for the Christmas program at the Morapos School. That was the country school that we community kids attended through grade eight. And the feeling of anticipation? Well, I can’t quite seem to bring it back to mind; that’s what happens when we grow up, I guess.
The Christmas programs that are most vivid for me are about fifth grade and beyond. The feeling of excitement began right after Thanksgiving when our teacher assigned parts for the program. There were poems to memorize (copies sent home), songs to learn, and parts to learn for one or more plays. (It must have been a challenge for the teacher to find plays in “play books” for actors of all ages, often first grade and up.)
After completing our lessons, some time was spent each day on practicing parts for the program. The closer the program date came, even more time was spent on it. Eventually the curtains were brought out of storage and one or more mothers washed, ironed, and mended the curtains (as mice sometimes chewed holes in them over the summer). Then they were hung to make a makeshift stage with an off-stage area on each side. The curtains were rigged so they would open and close. It was a magical place, indeed, made even more magical when the Christmas tree was decorated.
The night of the program we kids were dressed in our best. Mom made taffeta dresses for my sisters, Charlotte and Darlene, and me. (Our brother Duane wasn’t born yet — not until I was 14.) There were lots of community people in the audience because in those days the school events were also community events. We kids were nervous.
The program usually began with a welcome from the teacher. I think that we sometimes hand printed programs — no mimeograph machines in our country school in those days.
Recitations of Christmas poems, musical numbers (some with audience participation), and one or two plays were scattered throughout the program. It wasn’t unusual to hear the teacher prompting a student from the off-stage area – after all, we were nervous and our parents and perhaps grandparents were there. One year I played “Silver Bells” on the piano, and I goofed up. I remember being so ashamed.
I can’t remember any of the plays, but I do recall one year that when a teacher let us use some of her handmade puppets. These were the large heads of animals that were secured to long sticks. We hid behind a stage, and as the teacher read a script we moved the puppets around. I recall a giraffe; perhaps that was the puppet assigned to me. This part of the program was a hit with the audience.
After the program, parents and relatives and friends made over us and congratulated the teacher, and we were rewarded with treats and with trading Christmas gifts.
The feeling surrounding the Christmas program was something special, indeed.
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It was the 25th iteration of the Craig Rotary Club’s annual Diamonds & Spurs banquet Saturday, but, to its organizers at least, it was more than that.