Confessions Of A Curmudgeon

Parents and siblings get into the act and record their family members’ every move during the Julia Randall concert. The theme was Christmas Celebrations from Around the World. Celebrations included Hanukkah songs “The Eight Days of Hanukkah” and “Hanukkah is Here,” a Kwanzaa solo by John Becker titled “ Kwanzaa Time,” and the fourth- and fifth-grade chorus singing “Este Es La Navidad.”

Parents and siblings get into the act and record their family members’ every move during the Julia Randall concert. The theme was Christmas Celebrations from Around the World. Celebrations included Hanukkah songs “The Eight Days of Hanukkah” and “Hanukkah is Here,” a Kwanzaa solo by John Becker titled “ Kwanzaa Time,” and the fourth- and fifth-grade chorus singing “Este Es La Navidad.” Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Back in the day, way back before cell phones, CDs and DVDs, my boys appeared in just about every school play and holiday pageant our small-town elementary school could muster.

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Juli Davies directs the Payson Elementary School Choir.

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Children responding to Juli Davies are (left to right) Will Kyle, Joshua Lee, Sergio Madrid, Zayna Rodgers, Paeden Flores, Andrew Mikulak and Donoven Christenson.

Did I like going to these things? Of course not. You must remember, I was a charter member of the Scrooge Society, so “Bah Humbug” was my default attitude concerning celebratory events of just about any kind.

Now, all good (and I emphasize the word good) Scrooge Society members come by their attitudes righteously, thanks to some holiday disaster somewhere along the way.

But here’s our dirty little secret: Deep down, we long to be kids again so we can rediscovery the joy we seem to disdain. (Please don’t tell anyone I told you this — I have a reputation to uphold.)

As it happens, every Christmas my job forces me to reconsider my position — since December offers a solid lineup of elementary school pageants. Oh yeah! Right up my alley.

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Kirsten McNeely, left, and Kylie Thomas who play elves in the Frontier Elementary School play, “The Gleamers,” look ready for anything as they listen for their cue to perform in front of a huge audience.

Inevitably, I protest in a curmudgeonly way, before trudging off to shoot photos of helplessly cute rug rats with high hopes and fluttering butterflies, clinging to the sharp edge of stage fright.

Don’t get me wrong, I like children, especially for breakfast, but photographing so many endearing performances can tax even the most optimistic seasonal spirit.

I put on my photographer’s face at each event and look for those moments of joy, doubt, pain and fun, lurking in the hearts of every student — doing my best to blend into the scenery as I shoot, shoot, shoot.

I rarely focus on the star, but watch for those awkward, true, unconscious, real-life moments that create the images everyone remembers.

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Emily Arms, Lilly Bennett, Abram Ryan and Tyler Wilson listen attentively and wait patiently before they go on stage as their Julia Randall classmates sing a song from England.

Oh, to be sure, adults commit such moments as well, but not nearly as often. We grownups have learned to keep our masks in place.

Peering through the lens, I’m often oblivious to anything other than what I am focused on. And that can be a good thing.

Each concert I went to this year, I left feeling better — about the world, about children, about the season. There is something about listening to people sing from their hearts that spawns a sense of well being, contentment, satisfaction and peace of the soul. It is enough to ruin even the most devoted curmudgeon.

All the children at all three elementary schools, were well behaved, well mannered, sometimes distracted and invariably a joy to watch. Repeatedly, I found myself remembering my two smudged angels.

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Patrick Sainato waits his turn to speak his lines in a play written by Frontier Elementary teacher Mrs. Shipley. “The Gleamers” concerns several reindeer whose noses gleam, but don’t shine, who are made fun of by the other reindeer. But all’s well that ends well, and end well it did.

So savor this stage of their lives — and yours too. It’s a snowflake of wonder, but it won’t last long. And now, the day itself is upon us — no more pageants, no more toddlers with cardboard wings, no more tremulous choruses and blown lines.

And suddenly I realize: I’m gonna miss this next week.

Where’s my humbug? Bah!

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