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.
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.
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.
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.
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!