The winter of 1984 was cold and my children William, Matthew and Sallie were preparing for the Children’s Choir performance of the Christmas story. (Our puppy, Eleanor, would play a sheep.) I was expecting baby Jonathan in January.
When the time came for us to leave, Sallie (dressed to play Mary), told me in a sweet but adamant way that she did not like her costume.
At church, I was down front and ready to direct. The pianist began and from center stage Sallie gave me that serious look that only a tiny, angelic 4-year-old blond can give and she started undressing – first her slippers one at a time, and then slowly her headpiece and then her robe – leaving on only her white underthings. There was nothing I could do to stop her. As the Christmas story was retold through word and song by the children of New Hope Baptist, my Sallie was Virgin Mary, the Stripper.
When my son was about 5 or 6, he played the part of a shepherd in our church Christmas play. He was adorable in his bathrobe costume and walking-stick staff. They had practiced numerous times, but never with all the props. At that time in his life, he was afraid of dogs, since he had been bitten a couple of years before. Here he was on stage when from behind the scenes someone pushed out a cardboard, cotton-ball-covered sheep to stand right beside him. I could see his fear as he kept looking out of the corner of his eyes at that sheep.
After a few minutes, he took that staff and drew it back with all his might and knocked that sheep right over like it was dead. The audience exploded in laughter and it is still the most memorable Christmas play in the church.
Many years ago when I was 6 years old, I had a special part in our church’s Christmas pageant. I was so proud of being chosen to sit on my aunt’s lap while she told me the story of Jesus’ birth. I just knew I was headed for fame. I worked hard to memorize my lines, and on the night of the pageant marched to the front of the church, wearing my new frilly dress, secure in the knowledge that I could pronounce frankincense and myrrh. Unfortunately, I was concentrating more on my lines than where I was going and tripped up the altar steps, throwing my dress over my head. With a very red face, I jumped in my aunt’s lap and finished the program.
We received many compliments, but for years I was asked, “Remember the time you fell up the church steps and everybody saw your bloomers?”