Susie Soloed Tonight at Dominion’s Christmas Concert

Dominion’s three grades (sixth, seventh, and eighth) performed quite well, and the choice of music was quite eclectic, and there was enough mention of Christmas and the birth of Jesus to contradict anything you’ve heard about the mythical “war on Christmas.”  Despite having a sore throat, and missing school yesterday, Susie performed her solo of “This Christmas” excellently.  She was barely home from the show before compliments began popping up on her Facebook page.

The parents, in many cases, were another story…

When Susie was going to Dana Elementary, each class presented little Christmas skits, each lasting maybe five minutes at the longest.  Susie was in one of the lower grades, so her class’ play went close to the opening of the program.  I became quite irritated that the parents who came only seemed to listen and pay attention when their own children were onstage, and they jabbered all through the other performances, completely uncaring that other parents’ children were onstage and acting their little hearts out.  I was variously bored and amused by many of the other performances, but I did my best to respect the little thespians on the stage, and the feelings of the parents who had ventured out into the cold December night to hear them play.

I had the same experience tonight.  Since Steph was unable to come with me to the concert tonight, I brought along my trusty Kodak EasyShare camera and promised Steph I’d film the eighth-grade kids’ part of the concert, especially Susie’s solo.  (I couldn’t have recorded the entire concert, since the camera’s memory can accommodate only about 20 minutes of footage.)

I’m downloading the files to YouTube while I’m typing this entry, but I knew as I filmed it wouldn’t be professional quality at all.  One of these days I need to bite the bullet and get a tripod for this camera, because  you’ll be able to tell when my arm began to get tired, or when I had to shift the camera from one hand to the other.

Making matters worse was a woman sitting in front of me.  I sat in the center section, down toward the front, because the EasyShare’s zoom lens is not all that wonderful.  I was also afraid that if I sat too far back, all I’d film would be a stage full of silhouettes, and I’m not sure how sensitive the camera’s microphone is.

The woman in front of me was constantly rising up in her seat, shouting, “Sing it, honey!” to the stage–apparently one of her kids was in the choir–and I kept having to rise up higher in my seat so I would be filming the kids and not the back of her head.  Had I not been recording, I would have explained to her, most likely through gritted teeth, how people came to hear the kids, not her.  I’m sure her child was praying for a gigantic chasm to open in the stage floor and swallow him/her.  Mom obviously thought that middle-school Christmas concerts are supposed to be like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I wanted to add to the Christmas festivities by using this woman as a piñata.

There was a low rumble of chatter in pockets here and there behind me at some point during the entire performance.

The hour and a half before the concert had too much excitement for my liking.  Steph fixed a wonderful sloppy joe sauce for dinner, and I knew I would be home for a maximum of 20 minutes before Susie and I headed out to catch the COTA bus to Dominion.  Steph and Susie had both eaten by the time I arrived home, so I inhaled three sloppy joes and then Susie and I left to walk to the bus stop.  We lucked out, and a bus came up North 4th St. within five minutes.  (This was fortunate, since it was about 14º F. outside.)  We came aboard the bus, and before we had passed the first stop, Susie realized, to her horror, that she had forgotten the bag with her clothes for the performance.  I signaled for a stop, and told Susie to go ahead and ride the bus on up to Dominion.

I got off the bus and ran like mad back to the bus stop, because Susie said she may have left the bag there.  No bag, so I panicked.  There was one other possibility; the bag was on the kitchen floor.  I burst in through the back door (and probably shortened Steph’s life by about seven years), and almost collapsed from relief, because there was the bag with her concert clothes.  I turned right around and ran back to the bus stop, and was blessed by the sight of another bus coming north within minutes of my arrival.  Susie was frantically looking for me at the school–I heard from three of her friends, independently, that she was looking for me.  I handed off the bag of clothes to her, and she immediately dashed into a restroom to get out of her jeans and sweatshirt and into concert attire.

An emergency can drive you to unheard-of feats of strength and endurance.  We’ve all heard the story about the frail woman who was able to pull a car off her son when it pinned him.  My run to pick up Susie’s clothes was the most athletic activity I’ve performed in days, and I did it while in a bit of pain.  Saturday morning, I was coming home with my two-wheel grocery cart.  I was coming home after buying food, and I must not have been pulling the cart properly, or I was holding my spine in a bad position, because after I came home and filled the cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, I turned to put the cart back in its kitchen corner and there was a stabbing pain down my lumbar spine.  I did some chores around the house during the afternoon, some of which involving lifting, and I made a bang-zoom run to the library to return and pick up materials.

By the end of the afternoon, I was in such pain that I was swallowing ibuprofen tablets five or six at a time.  I even went through some boxes I never completely unpacked after the move, searching in vain for any Darvocet left over from the gallbladder surgery last February.  A Facebook friend scolded me for the excessive ibuprofen, telling me that I was jeopardizing my stomach lining and gastrointestinal tract if I was taking that much at once.

Sunday morning, the pain wasn’t much better.  I didn’t get out of bed until noon, and Susie headed up to church on the bus solo.  The first real snow of the season fell Sunday morning after sunrise, and although the sidewalks were icy (it had rained before the temperature dropped and snow began falling), I felt I had been confined to quarters too long, so I got out of bed, showered, dressed, and went downtown to the Main Library.

Two pictures of our street, mid-morning Sunday.
(Photos by Steph.)

Just being out in the fresh air–cold as it was–was quite a balm.  I had loaded up with my weight’s worth of ibuprofen, and it was at least having a placebo effect.  My mood improved when I ran into my friend John at the public computers on the third floor.  After he was done online, we compared union steward woes (we were both union stewards at Medco Health, and I spelled him as recording secretary several times) over cheeseburgers and Chicken Nuggets at the McDonald’s near Franklin University.  (I loaded up on so much Diet Coke during the talk that my hands had an almost Parkinsonian tremble by the time we left.)

Susie “pitched through her tears” when she soloed tonight.  She had a sore throat Monday and stayed home from school, and when the alarm rang this morning, neither she, nor Steph, nor I knew whether she should come to school.  She still had the sore throat, but she had no fever and was not coughing.  If she took today off, that would be no solo tonight.  I finally told her to go to school.  If she felt too wretched to complete the day, she could call me at work and I’d come get her and take her home on COTA.  I told her she would never forgive herself if she stayed home and felt better during the day, thus ending her chance to sing tonight.

As you can see, it all worked out for the best.  She sang well, and so did her classmates.  I’m pretty jaded when it comes to Christmas programs, but I almost wish I had recorded the seventh grade choir’s rendition of “Sing We Now of Christmas.”  (This was the first time I had ever heard the song with English lyrics.  I knew the melody, because I had heard Jan Peerce sing “Noel Nouvelet” on Great Songs of Christmas, an album that gas stations used to give out in December when I was a kid.)  They did a great job with this carol, which I really enjoyed.  The song is quite repetitious, but it’s pretty enough that this doesn’t grate on your nerves.

The Dominion Ensemble Choir performed excellent renditions of very secular songs (such as Toto’s “Africa” and Van Halen’s “Jump”) sandwiched in between “Carol of the Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

A good concert, but it didn’t flow as well as one at Washington School when I was in grade school.  Between selections, teachers would read the Nativity story in different languages, with English last.  I remember one boy singing a solo of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” while wearing a sailor’s cap–this was while the Vietnam War was still happening, so it struck close to home to quite a few kids there.  And the show ended with Washington School’s orchestra playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and making it sound like a dirge.

I may be posting my video footage of the concert in a day or two.  YouTube’s upload is quite slow.  I think a courtroom sketch artist could produce a finished product a lot faster than this.  I think a sculptor could.

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My Early Life Inspired a TV Episode

I’ve seen more than one person over the years wearing a button that said MY LIFE IS A SOAP OPERA.  All of us feel that way, usually quite justifiably, but I can truthfully say that a first-grade playground incident was immortalized on a kids’ show.

The show didn’t receive nation- or worldwide coverage.  The program was Hattie, Chattie, and Thurb, a puppet show broadcast on Marietta College’s small television station, WCMO-TV (known as Project 9 or Project 2 initially, depending on which channel it used), a station which had a broadcast radius of maybe about 20 blocks.  Picture the bargain basement equivalent of Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, but without a human character.  The station’s budget was just about nonexistent, so the students running the show made puppets out of socks.

I don’t even remember what animals the characters were, although I watched the show quite faithfully when it was on late in the afternoon, trying (in Marietta) to hold its own against the maiden voyage of Sesame Street.

In the fall of first grade, I was proud of the fact that I had lost my first tooth over the summer, and I was about to lose my second.  I was always thirsty, and I was constantly wiggling it to show off to friends, or unconsciously wiggling the tooth back and forth with my tongue.  (At the time I thought it resembled a Tog’l Block, a toy made by Mattel, which featured cubes with one hinged side.)

After lunch, I was on the Washington School playground, and in the middle of talking to a kid or jumping onto the merry-go-round, I must have popped the tooth out with my tongue.  I wasn’t even aware of it, until a kid said, “Hey, you’re bleeding!”  I remember tasting something funny in my mouth, and I put my finger in, and it came out streaked with red.  Instinctively, my tongue went for the loose tooth, and it was gone.

Washington School, Marietta, Ohio.

I was proud of this at first, but then panic set in.  When I lost the first tooth, like many another child before and since, I put it under my pillow at bedtime that night.  The next morning, the tooth was gone, and there was a dime under the pillow.  (At six years old, that was big money.  When Susie first started losing teeth, we left dollar bills.  She came out ahead, too.  According to the calculator at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a dime in 1969 has the buying power of $.60 today.)

So now I had lost the tooth–literally.  It wasn’t only gone from my mouth, it was completely gone.  I remember madly scrambling around the slide, the swing set, under the Funnel Ball, and everywhere I thought I could have been.  I was in total despair, worsened each time I picked up a small white pebble, thinking it was my tooth.  (I must have looked like one of the peasant women in Millet’s painting “The Gleaners.”)

I managed to feign enough calm about this during the rest of the school day.  And it was a good thing, too, because my first-grade teacher was likely certifiably nuts, a woman very free with both her shrill voice and her ruler.

After school, when my dad picked me up, I told him of my plight and my despair.  I worried even more when he vetoed the idea of going onto the playground with me, so we could pursue The Case of the Missing Denticle.  He was noncommittal, but still saw fit to prolong my worry and my unease.  All was well, because I was $.10 richer come morning.

About two weeks later, we were watching Hattie, Chattie, and Thurb, and one of the characters faced the same dilemma.  He/she had been on the playground, and lost a tooth while playing, and couldn’t find it.  The ending was the same–the puppet’s parents were understanding, and abode by the spirit, if not the letter, of the custom.  (Dad had a weekly program on WCMO called Bookshelf, and my guess is he told the story as entertainment to the students and staff when he came in to tape the episode.)

Despite this, I have never made a serious attempt to write anything for television, other than the obligatory Star Trek script when I was in middle school, and a half-assed attempt to write a script for my favorite children’s show in fourth grade, Curiosity Shop (a Chuck Jones project that was markedly less successful than Bugs Bunny and Road Runner).

I did try my hand at radio drama.  A St. Mary’s classmate and I tried to write a science fiction radio play, inspired by a tape of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast.  We even set the story in the form of news broadcasts, and spread out Exxon road maps of much of Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland plotting the invading armies from some other galaxy.

In high school, after reading Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, I wrote (and completed!) a CBS Radio Mystery Theater episode which was a conscientiously accurate adaptation of A. Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Final Problem.”  It never left Marietta, although many times I contemplated typing it up and mailing it to Himan Brown, the director of Mystery Theater.

The hard copy is long gone, but I shudder when I remember some of the passages I wrote, such as “Follow me to a London office, where Dr. John Hamish Watson sits writing in his diary.”  I had listened to enough tapes of the show to include such trivia as “Our mystery drama, ‘The Adventure of the Final Problem,’ was adapted from the A. Conan Doyle classic for the Mystery Theater by Paul T. Evans, and stars [Holmes] and [Watson].  It is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch Inc., brewers of Budweiser, and General Electric citizen band radios.”

Maybe even then I had the foresight to realize that writing radio dramas was going to go the route of repairing fountain pens and blacksmithing as a means of supporting oneself.