Friday, December 24, 2010

Because I Said So: Seasonal spectacles put kids on world tour

This week's column is about my kids' various Christmas programs at their schools. I'm very proud of them whenever they take to the stage, but it is with a certain amount of anxiety. No parent wants to see their child mess up and be embarrassed in front of friends and strangers. Luckily, they didn't. They were all little professionals and I was spared the pangs of empathy.

I've written recently about the hunt for a column topic and how it can bring me to near panic. This was one of those times. This was one of those weeks when I carried a legal pad and pencil around the house, writing a sentence or word here and there. They weren't cohesive thoughts, but simply ideas. Eventually, when I had a few pages of these ideas, I attempted to stitch them together into a theme. I wasn't completely sold on what I ended up with as an idea, but, reading it in the paper, I guess it came out okay.

Certain columns are more difficult to write or, rather, I feel there is more weight associated with them. These tend to be the Thanksgiving and Christmas columns, which seem to always fall on my weeks. I like my last two years' Christmas columns, making this year even more difficult (so you don't have to run off to your own archives, I've dug them up and linked them here: 2008 and 2009).

And, in case you didn't catch it in the paper yesterday, here is 2010. Enjoy!

Last week began the home stretch into Christmas. The light of a red nose is visible at the end of the tunnel for kids who have been staring into the darkness of the school year with very little patience and much, much hope.

'Tis the season of joy. 'Tis the season of the off-key, of missed cues and flubbed lyrics.

I spent last week on the circuit, touring the many musical performances of my kids' schools, their harmonies through the holidays.

The oldest, Calvin, on saxophone, and some of his bandmates from White Station Middle School serenaded shoppers at the Wolfchase Barnes & Noble. In addition to holiday standards "Jingle Bell Rock" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," they played the Chinese melody "Kangding Love Song."

A portion of the sales that night went to benefit the middle school, while a majority of my kids asked me not to sing along with Johnny Mathis on the drive home.

There was a distinctly global feel to 9-year-old Joshua's program at Richland Elementary School the next day as well. The fourth grade presented "December Around The World" in which Joshua, dressed like an elf-size Apollo Creed, delivered the speaking part of that most classic of Christmas characters, Uncle Sam.

(When I was a student at St. Louis Elementary, I delivered a rousing performance as a member of the chorus for "Feliz Navidad" in our Christmas program. The critics, if I recall correctly, declared my performance bueno.)

My youngest attends Roulhac's Preschool, and their Christmas program is always a treat of the unknown. Corralling so many 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds down the aisle and onto a stage to sing along with words whose meanings they don't yet fully grasp could go either way. Could, in fact, go every which way.

They did great, though. Despite my little girl delighting in singing carols all week only to substitute the odd noun and verb with even odder words for bodily functions -- like some festive, though offensive, Mad Lib -- at showtime she was nothing but professional and hit all of her marks.

Thankfully, all practice for these shows is handled at school. We are spared at home from the repetitious singing and banging like Janie Bailey playing "Hark! The Herald, Angels Sing" again and again while George tears the living room apart in "It's a Wonderful Life."

The holiday season is not just about gifts for the kids, but about time -- the wonder of how slowly it moves as a child and the quickness as an adult -- and I consider myself lucky to have the time free to be a part of these yuletide spectacles.

There is always that fear in parents, just before a kid goes onstage, that feeling of butterflies like the childhood anticipation of Christmas Eve. But when they walk out with the smiles of accomplishment and pride on their faces, it's like waking up and seeing, once again, the magic of Santa in the night.

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more about him and his family at Alley and Stacey Greenberg, the mother of two boys, take turns on Thursdays telling stories of family life in Memphis. Read more from her at and Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook: