By Doris Schroeder
“I cannot wait until the Christmas program!” I would think as I kept writing stories in my Big Chief Pencil Tablet in my lone upstairs bedroom. My imagination wrapped around the everyday happenings of a young girl on a Kansas farm.
A little sprinkling of stardust on rare occasions, gave me something to dream about. As we lived some of those years on the farm on the we did not have a busy social life. The most important events were the monthly PTAs at the little country school named Sunrise. Then came the BIG event of the year, the Christmas program. This was the occasion I anticipated all year long. This was the frosting on the cake, the time I could become a great actress, a storyteller, a singer, and perform before my parents. This was the substance my dreams were made from, the glitter that would light up my life, even if it was but for a brief moment of time.
In the fundamental world we lived in, most of our time was dealt with keeping up with the bare necessities of life. There was no TV to watch, hobbies to pursue, or even lessons to partake. We lived a simple life, got up, did our chores, went to school, walked home, did our chores and went to bed. Our chores consisted of pumping drinking water from the outside pump, filling the lamps and the stove with kerosene, getting in a bucket of coal. This went along with feeding the chickens, the dogs and cats, and I held the lantern for my Dad when he fed the pigs and milked the cows.
Our school Christmas program preparations began early, usually a little before Thanksgiving. The teacher of the one room country school would read us a play or a reading during our after lunch period. Sometimes she would ask who wanted to play which part. Other times she would assign the parts to different students. There were times I wanted a certain part so badly. When she assigned it to me, I was deliriously happy. Then we would copy down what we were to memorize (no copying machines, then) and started working on getting it down pat.
When we had our lesson done for a certain period, two or three of us would ask to go into the boys or girls hall and practice.
In the evening when I was helping my Dad with the chores, I would go outside the barn while he was milking. Looking out at the starry night, I would render my part in my strongest, most expression-filled voice, over and over. The cows merely gave me an occasional glance as they intently chewed the cud of the evening repast. Bossy, the cow, sometimes lent her low moo, in time with whatever I was singing. Perhaps, she, too, was dreaming of stardom in some future time.
The week before the program, the school itself began to take on a certain glow. Floor sweep was put on the floors and at recess we students would skate across the wooden boards. This would make the floor shiny for our big event.
The teacher of all eight grades would assign the artistic ones to draw Christmas pictures on the blackboard with colored chalk. This, of course, after the boards had all been washed down with hot soapy water.
The day before, the school board chairman would arrive with a huge pine tree and set it up in the front of the school. The pine odor permeated the air with a pungent smell that seemed to add spark to each of our beings. Later, the board would do the decorating so it would be a gala evening.
Finally, the day of the program arrived. In the morning, Mom wrapped my hair around rolled up newspaper and tied it with strips of cloth. This was the one time I wore my hair wrapped up in a scarf to school. We practiced our program and at noon, cut across the pasture and home to ‘rest up’ before the big event of the season. It was worth the effort to become Shirley Temple for the evening.
The afternoon moved slowly by but finally it was time to get ready. I did my chores as early as I could, so I would have plenty of time to get dressed. Finally, I’d have bugged everyone enough and we got into our ‘39 Mercury to drive down the country road to the school on the hill.
Entering the school through the outside hall, where the pump was located, I always caught my breath. The ceiling lamps were lit and cast a golden glow in the room. Although the tree had no lights, it sparkled with the shiny Christmas balls and the heady smell of pine greeted our nostrils.
I made my way to one of the front desks that had been assigned to me, and waited for the program to begin. The roll-up curtain in front had been pulled down and we could read all the advertisements that were splashed on the side of the scenic view that had been painted on. My girlfriend, Ruth, and I busily exchanged confidences as we checked out the incoming crowd. The closer the clock came for the starting time, the more the butterflies in my stomach began to flit around.
Eventually the teacher caught our eye and we slipped behind the curtain with the other students. We quickly lined up the way we had practiced and as the curtain was rolled up, we sang our opening song. “Joy to the World!” rang out through the walls of the little country school as we poured our hearts into our singing.
The teacher announced the numbers…some pieces by the little ones, a skit and of course, there was usually a play with a theme about “The Light in the Window!”
Then we usually gathered together one more time as a whole student body of twelve to fifteen students and sang the closing songs.
“This concludes our program!” the teacher announced at the end. This was followed by thunderous applause by the parents. Each one thinking, “My child did so well!” Our parents were proud of us but they didn’t voice this observation to anyone else. “It might give them the big head!” they thought.
After the program was over, we students waited breathlessly while the school board got up and went into the boys hall. They came out with a large box of sacks and handed each of us one. Then they gave some to the little children and finally to the parents if there were some left over.
Ruth and I gingerly opened our twisted bags to see what was in it. We were told not to eat any so a peek had to suffice. There were two or three peanut clusters, chocolate drops, hard candy, peanuts, a few walnuts and brazil nuts, an orange and an apple.
Finally our parents started saying it was time to leave. The school board got ready to blow out the ceiling lamps. The magical evening of the year had come to an end. It would have to suffice to talk about the things that happened and dream about the things that didn’t.
The misty glow of the evening lent itself to many imaginative mind wanderings that would again make its way onto my Big Chief Pencil Tablet. I could crawl into my cold iron bed with heated flat irons for warmth with a real smile on my face, remembering The Christmas Program, dreaming, not of sugarplums but shiny stars in the dark blue pattern of the future, glittering on the horizon.
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at [email protected]