In my blog post last Thursday, I hinted that I was saving something special for today. Which I have, for a given value of special. This is one of the better personal stories I have to tell, but I've been saving it for the blog post closest to Christmas. Some of my younger readers, the ones who were there for the event, will doubtless already have guessed what anecdote I am about to recount.
This is the story of the Christmas Pageant of Doom.
During the ten years since my wedding, I have performed a wide variety of services for the church where the wedding took place. Even setting aside the five and a half years where I was the paid secretary of the joint (as mentioned in some of my prior posts), I've held a number of interesting volunteer positions. Some of them I really loved, some not so much, but easily one of my favorite stints was the three years running where I was the director of the Christmas pageant.
Our Christmas pageant is held during the worship service on the Sunday before the holiday. It takes the place of the sermon, and out of respect for my beloved pastor, I will refrain from making the obvious snarky jokes which that fact inspires. I forget exactly how I got drafted to be the director; it was partly due to my dual role as a Sunday School teacher and youth group advisor, and partly due to the fact that I did some theater work in college, but I'm pretty sure that it was mostly due to the fact that I was in the room at the time.
Regardless of what my feelings may have been about anything else I ever experienced in the church, I always loved working with the youth. So I shouldered the new task with amusement, and the first year I directed the show, I learned a few things that worked out very nicely. Among other things, I had everyone assemble for a rehearsal the day before the show (as opposed to previous years, where the only practice was held during the Sunday School hour), and during the Saturday rehearsal the kids were allowed to be as silly as they wanted to be, on the condition that they were serious on Sunday. It worked. They put on a brilliant show. So the second year, we did the same thing, with almost the same results.
I say 'almost' because the kids were good. But circumstances beyond our control kept the morning from being particularly dignified.
The Saturday rehearsal was fun and goofy. The Sunday morning rehearsal, during the Sunday School hour, was fine. But before we could run through it one more time, it was discovered that the narrator's script was missing a page. Since the narrator just stood at a lectern to read his lines, he was the only one who was allowed to use a script during the show, and therefore it was very necessary that he have a complete copy.
No problem. I was the secretary as well as the director; I would just take my own copy down to my office, run off a fresh copy, and be back in five minutes. What could go wrong?
To save time, coming back up, I was jogging. I ran up the stairs and, without breaking stride, chose to turn right instead of left. Had I turned left, I would have emerged in the main part of the church, come around the massive organ, and had absolutely no story to tell you. Because I went right, I rushed through the sacristy (the little room off the altar where the communion supplies are stored, among other things) and emerged on the altar itself. Our altar is very wide and leads down three stone steps to the main level of the church. Still jogging, I crossed the altar. I was dimly aware of the fact that there was a microphone cord lying on the floor in front of me, and I gave a little hop to clear it without tripping.
It worked, in one respect. I did not trip over the cord. But somehow, I failed to recognize that the three stone steps were on the other side of the cord, and that my little hop would somehow cause me to fall on them.
In case you weren't sure, gravity was functioning normally that day.
I honestly have no memory of the fall and am not entirely sure what happened. What I do remember is successfully hopping over the cord, and then the next instant I was much more intimately acquainted with the red carpeting than I ever wanted to be. And then suddenly I was aware of pain.
Among my other physical quirks, I have a bad knee. I can say with a perfectly straight face that it's an old football injury, a relic from my days as the equipment manager for my high school team; later in life, I made it worse when I dislocated it playing volleyball with my husband and his siblings. This curious little tumble in the church brought the problem back in full force, and with what I must confess was great difficulty, I managed to restrict my screech of pain to a very strangled "SHHHHHHOOooooooooot." (I was, after all, surrounded by small children.)
The next half hour is blurry. I know that the parents who were on hand for the rehearsal managed to get me off the floor and shove a chair under my rear end. Judy, the mother of two of the kids from my youth group, is a nurse and sent her daughter to get me a can of Coke to help my blood sugar, since I was rather well-known for forgetting to eat breakfast before church. The organist ran outside, filled a plastic bag with snow, and brought it back for me to hold on my swelling knee. They gave me Motrin, which remains one of my favorite painkillers, and I tried to reassure everyone that really, I would be fine.
I remember two comments very clearly. One came from Judy's son, who had somewhat missed the situation despite being right there to play the angel Gabriel. He was sitting in a pew talking to someone, and as he said later, "I looked up and saw about forty people crowded around something, and since I couldn't see you, I figured you were what they were looking at."
The other remark was from the pastor, who entered the scene about ten minutes too late to see the carnage; when told what happened, he expressed tremendous regret. And by that, I mean his exact words were "I'm sorry I missed it!"
Despite all this, the pageant went off without a hitch and the youth group boys saw me safely to my car afterward. I went home and spent the rest of the day in bed with my leg elevated.
This past Sunday was the annual pageant, the first one in a few years which I wasn't there to see. I spoke to Katie, one of my youth group kids, and asked how it went.
"It's not the same without you. Nobody falls off the altar."
As legacies go, I suppose it could be worse. Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it!