Friday, April 07, 2006

Christmas Blessings

Fat Doctor's post the other day, where she referenced attending her nephew’s school to see his program, The Little Red Hen, reminded me of one of Dear Son’s school programs.

Every December, his school would put on a Christmas program for the parents. I always attended these programs even though it required me to leave work in the middle of the day, which I didn’t like to do due to a heavy work schedule. I would come to these programs to see Dear Son, although rarely was it anything different. There would be the Christmas Program with the typical holiday songs like “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer” where they would dress the kids in red turtlenecks and put antlers on all the kids, while singing the song. Typically, any child wearing antlers, or any other animal parts (pig noses come to mind), does not tug at my heartstrings in any way.

So this particular year, I expected more of the same. The big difference however, was the mix of students in Dear Son’s classroom. Of all the years, this one was different because nearly every student in the classroom could not talk or was in a wheelchair or both. Technically, it was called the “Physically Handicapped” classroom since that was their primary disability and because they didn’t classify the mental disabilities until much later. In addition to the physical and mental disabilities, there was one girl who was deaf. Singing was definitely out of the question because most couldn’t speak and one couldn’t hear. Even if they could talk, you would be asking quite a lot for them to be able to put enough together for singing. On the way over, I tried to think of what they might do, however I couldn’t think of anything based on the children’s abilities. I must admit, I was quite intrigued to see what his teacher, Mrs. B., would come up with.

They started with the first grade and worked their way up. The first grade came out and performed. The curtain closed, a Christmas song played, then the curtain re-opened for the second graders. After the second graders were finished, the curtains closed, a Christmas song played and the curtain re-opened. The Physically Disabled Classroom was next. The curtain closed. A Christmas song played. Then a second one played. Then another one played. Then another. Then another. I knew it was going to take a little while to assemble them, since the wheelchairs had to be carried up the stairs to the stage, and each child had to be carried to their places. It was so long however, that I was beginning to think there might be a medical emergency. Finally, the curtain opened.

It was the most amazing program you have ever seen. The theme was Santa’s Workshop. In the workshop, were all the children from Dear Son’s classroom, all dressed in red and green, like little elves. More importantly, were the children themselves. The one little girl with cerebral palsy sat in the middle. Her head was moving side to side, just like it does in the classroom, because she could not hold it still. She had a toy in her lap, that she supposedly was working on, as one of Santa’s elves. The next boy, was beating on a drum of some kind. Normally, he’s hitting something or putting beans down the radiator in the classroom. The next boy, was a Jack-In-The-Box. His eyes were crossed and I wondered how on earth he could make it through his day like that. He was busy jumping up and down inside the box they created especially for him. He was so animated and hands down, my favorite. Then there was Rachel, a tiny little thing, with jet black hair and extremely short bangs, cut at an angle, which made it look like she did it herself. She sat cross legged at the back of the stage. As you went around the room, you saw each child as they were, with their disabilities highlighted in Santa’s Workshop, however that is precisely what made them the perfect elves for the program. The boy in the Jack-In-The-Box, could never sit still in the classroom. He was a perfect Jack-In-The-Box since he looked like he had springs attached to him causing him to pop out of the box. I would later learn, that they had to have two adults standing at the edge of the stage because he couldn’t stop jumping and they were afraid he would fall off. Dear Son was Santa. They sat him in his wheelchair and added construction paper to it so it would look like wood. They attached a beard to his face, which he did not like, since he didn’t want anything touching his face. He was quite the grumpy Santa, if you were to ask me, but that just made him all the more lovable. He had on a red sweater, as requested by his teacher. I later learned that he got the starring role in the program because he had a red sweater, which they wanted for the program.

The best part of the program was really the children. Their disabilities were what made each of the elves so animated. It was so animated in fact, that it looked like a Christmas cartoon, the kind they have on television, that had come to life. Normal children would not have been able to pull this off because it was their handicaps: their jerking movements, their lack of tone and slouchiness, that made them so real. Their faces were beautiful and fresh. Their lack of perfection, as evidenced by the normal children’s fancy hairdos, were absent. Their eyes were big and their smiles were imperfect, but their joy was real. Their hearts were glowing, and so were ours. It was a beautiful performance and I must say, that I have never seen a performance as magnificent as that. The curtain closed to a standing ovation, only to open again to celebrate the children once more, as if they could do an encore. Soon the curtain closed, the music returned, and the first Christmas song started up. Then another. Then another. Then another. And another……until all of the children were off the stage.


Lori said...

Thank you for sharing that story. What a wonderful memory to hold in your heart!

Wrkinprogress said...

Oh wow! You made me recall a Christmas program I was privileged to see at a school for handicapped children a few years ago. I have a friend who volunteers with a little girl with multiple issues, but she is the most delightful child! I have never seen a more precious, joyous event than that Christmas pageant, and you're right -- it was the specialness of each child that made it so beautiful. One of the things I remember most clearly are the big! So happy! So proud! Another very vivid memory is of an absolutely angelic, smooth-skinned blonde girl who signed one of the Christmas carols. Her expressiveness brought those words to life, unlike any "voice" could ever do.

I'm so happy you have these beautiful memories to share with us. And please know, I'm sending you hugs across the miles, wishing you a joyful, peaceful day. Bless you, Dream Mom, and bless your precious son, too.

With love,

neonataldoc said...

A great story....thank you.

Dreaming again said...

A Mother's Heart
by Peggikaye Eagler

Every mother had Dreams,
Of a Child perfect and whole.
Every mother has Hopes,
For perfection, body and soul.

They told me you’re not perfect,
Sweet loving child of mine.
They told me that your learning,
Is taking too much time.

They tell me that your tests came back,
Showing problems and low scores.
They tell me that you have to struggle,
This hurts me to the core.

Every mother has dreams,
They tell me you don’t fit.
Every mother has hopes,
They say perfection you won’t hit.

But they don’t see what I see,
The smile that lights your face.
But they don’t hear what I hear,
Your laughter reveals God’s grace.

They don’t see what I see,
My child loving and whole.
I have hopes and dreams,
Because my child you are a gift from God
And you have a PERFECT SOUL.

© 2000 Peggikaye Eagler

Dream Mom said...

Lori & Neonatal Doc-Thanks for your comments.

WIP-Wow, whas a beautiful story about the girl "signing" the Christmas carol. Even more beautiful, was your description of her bringing those words to life, "unlike any "voice" could ever do".

Dreaming again-That was ABSOLUTELY beautiful; it brought a tear to my eye. I have printed it off and will be framing it. Thank you SO much for that beautiful poem.

Dreaming again said...

Dream mom ... no problem.

It seems that while everyone is telling us of our children's struggles ... we see our children's triumph's ...and at times, it gets frustrating to see why they can't see the triumphs too.

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