As we get ready for service, I think, “The mother who can get her little children to a Christmas program WITHOUT yelling is a superwoman.” And most definitely not me. The too-big socks, all white, the belts missing because you were hitting each other with them yesterday, the too-short pants, and the ever-loving other SHOE… and the baby with the too-short nap who is too grumpy even for Jesus’ birthday cake, already telling me he is NOT singing, clinging to my leg… and THEN, the one crying “I don’t want to be a sheep!” and the other child saying “You HAVE to be a sheep, Eldon,” which leads to an all-out screaming-crying-on-the-floor FIT, and after I "handle it," I tell all children that nobody is allowed to say the word “SHEEP” for the rest of the night.
But with a little help from Grammy Pammy (ok, a lot), we leave on time. Five kids in dress clothes, and one dressed as the Virgin Mary. I notice the nervous smiles on the older children, so I give a quick encouraging hug.
Somehow between the elbows and the threats and the craning to see,
I was given moments,
moments on each of their sweet faces with more depth than I could ever catch on camera.
Aggie's looking for me, in her green dress, while she sings and I can her her sweet voice over all the others. Finally she finds me, and when her eyes meet mine, she smiles into her song, and it gets louder, happier. She sings to make me smile and I am smiling my "glorias" up to the sky.
Lorraine, nearly eleven, not wearing her glasses because the real Mary would not have worn glasses. I wonder if her friends teased her about the boy. She was nervous about that, more so than her performance as Mary. The blue shawl is draped over her head, and her brown eyes sparkle as she sits by the manger with the boy she most certainly would not have chosen to be Joseph, and she smiles shyly as she holds the baby.
Seth is wearing a tie tonight, and he's up on the highest riser. This child, who is uncomfortable in large crowds, who spent our first year at this church hiding behind my leg; he is determined, serious. I don't know if he sees me, but it's almost time for him to take the microphone. He reads, clearly, confidently, and the moment is over. But the second he finishes, he looks right at me, and he sees my proud smile. He gives a subtle nod, receiving my message, and gives his shoes a tiny, satisfied smile. And I am suddenly overwhelmed with joy, with the privelage of being the one he looks for, the one whose approval goes right down into his heart and makes him smile like that.
The chaos is too much for Peter. He held me tightly, and when it is time to go up front, his wide eyes fill with tears and he says (lies) "My tummy hurts I need you to snuggle me!" (for the millionth time this month.) He refuses to go up front, so we watch his peers from the front row.
We watch Eldon stand proudly in his suit, sneaking peeks at me watching him and smiling whenever he caught my eye. And Marcus, in the front row, stands with his arms crossed and back to me. He turns to scowl and me and I take a picture of his dirty look. His scowl deepens.
Later, we pray, and I've had enough managing the pokey, wiggly, crazy boys to the left and right of me, on top of me, everywhere. Threatening whispers, firm squeezes, even mild mommy pinches do not slow the train barreling towards utter chaos.
But then, I hear it: the tiny Eldon voice, praying along with the Lord's prayer, just as he should! That deserves a smile and a "good job," and I give it to him immediately. He smiles back he puts his feet up on the back of the pew in front of us. For a second, he sits like a hammock with a proud smile, then his shoes slip and CRASH right on his behind. It must have hurt, but his eyes showed only shock and fear (of me), but then he sees my smirk and it spreads to his face, and though I try to stay serious and keep praying with him, we just barely hold back guffaws.
And the child in the front row is taking off his cowboy boots. And Peter will not stop touching my face and feeding me my necklace. And finally, we sing the last song and we go.
Merry, Merry Christmas, everyone.
God is with us, for us, in the chaos, in the darkness, right here.
Come, let us adore him!