Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Blessings

Every December, Dear Son's 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.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am very happy that you came back. I really enjoy your writing. Poppi

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing your love for dear Son with all of us, and for sharing your gift of writing. you remind me that we all have gifts to share, though not all gifts come packaged in ways that we easily recognize as gifts.

Anonymous said...

That is just another way of showing that everyone has value and can contribute. Hurray for Mrs. B...what insight and creativity! Dear Son looks adorable!

xquizitdazie@gmail.com said...

Oh I how I would have loved to see this. I can try to imagine it in my head and it doesn't do justice to what I'm sure was a beautiful show. Your son makes a very handsome Santa. I'm so thankful for you sharing these joyful moments with us.

Anonymous said...

i love this story.

The MSILF said...

Wow - sounds like they have some wonderful teachers too! I hope they got lots of hugs.

jennifer said...

What a beautiful description of a lovely scene...I wish my son could have been in the program. He would have been a spinning top, as he loves to twirl around and around. It's nice to think there's a holiday pagent where he would be a star too. Thank you for sharing.

neonataldoc said...

Great story, very nice.

Dream Mom said...

Thanks everyone.

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