I thought that primary would go back to normal today. Things have been kind of crazy the past few weeks. We had our primary presentation on the 14th so were practicing for that in the weeks previous, throwing our sharing time and singing time off schedule. And then the day we actually did the primary presentation was a little hectic as well. We switched the meeting blocks around and practiced for the first two hours of church and did the presentation during sacrament meeting for the last hour of church. Last week was district conference so we didn't have primary at all, and yeah, things have been a little crazy.
And then today I found out that the primary was asked to do a nativity pageant for the branch Christmas party. We have two weeks to put that together and practice. So it seems that things are, once again, a little crazy. That's what I get for doing my own thinking.
While we were sitting in our presidency meeting trying to figure out who we could have play the roles of Mary and Joseph without causing too many tears (because everyone, of course, wants to be Mary). I began to reflect upon some of my own pageant memories, three of which stand out specifically.
My first memory was from when I was so little that I can't remember how old I was. But I was mortified that I was asked to be a cow. Or a sheep. I don't even remember what I was. All I know was that I wanted to be Mary, or an angel, or something. I just didn't want to be some stupid barn animal. But that's what I was.
My mom had a little hood for me and the other cow/sheeps to wear. She tried to convince me that I was the most beautiful cow/sheep of all but I'm quite positive I just sat on the stage and pouted, making me the grumpiest looking cow/sheep ever.
That's the first nativity I remember participating in, and it's really not a happy memory. I hated every minute of it. I was a vain child.
Now of course there were many pageants in between this first one and my last one in primary and I remember singing some songs with my friend Emily Loos and getting wise men costumes together. My parents had this beautifully carved wood box that we would use to represent one of the gifts. And my dad had an old, wood cane that we would use as a staff. I have a lot of good, fun memories of Christmas nativities, but they're all just snippets. The next good, solid memory I have is when I was eleven.
Eleven is a hard age to be in primary. All I wanted to be was out of there, but my birthday wasn't for 6 more months so I was still stuck in primary--a tall, gawky pre-teen in among snotty nosed children--when it was time for the Christmas nativity.
The presidency assigned parts by drawing names out of a jar.
They drew Mary and Joseph out first. I don't remember who Joseph was, but a girl named Heather got to play the part of Mary.
Heather was elated, but the rest of the girls were not. We all sat by gloomily waiting while the boys were assigned their parts: Joseph, the innkeepers, the wise men. On and on the boys parts went. Finally they decided that they probably needed some more girls taking part, so they drew a girl for the part of the angel.
Since all left over girls were already assigned to be angels, I was hoping to be the "head angel" so that I could at least have a speaking part. But it was not to be. Shauna's name was drawn. She would be the angel.
Abra knew I was upset so she lent me some of her white clothes and curled my hair to make me feel all pretty. She has a special talent for that.
I may have felt pretty, but that didn't mean that I didn't also feel awkward. I have a picture (somewhere in a box in my inlaw's basement in Utah) of me on stage with the rest of the angels. I'm at least a foot taller than everyone else on stage. I looked completely out of place, a giant of an angel.
My mom tried to make me feel better by telling me that I was the real head angel because I was the one leading all the other smaller angels on and off the stage. It didn't really make me feel better though and every time I see that picture of me towering, tall and skinny, above all these chubby, cherubic sunbeams I feel awkward all over again.
Several years later, past Young Women's and into Relief Society, the sisters were asked to sing a carol describing Mary's thoughts and feelings at the ward Christmas party. Once again I wasn't selected to be Mary. Instead they chose another young girl, slightly older than me who was married and expecting her first baby. I didn't mind not being chosen; I guess I had matured some since I was 4 or 11.
But the week before we preformed the girl decided to go on vacation and since there weren't many other girls in our Relief Society in Mary's age bracket I was chosen as the backup Mary.
Although I wasn't disappointed when I wasn't chosen to portray Mary, I sure was excited when I was. I got to wear a veil and carry a doll wrapped in a blanket and everything; and all the Relief Society sisters gathered around me to sing to the baby Jesus.
It wasn't a big deal, really, but it's something that I'd always wanted to do; it was on my "life list," so to speak, and it was interesting to play such an intimate role in the nativity. It gave me greater reason to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and the truly humble circumstances the Savior was born into. I suppose I could have done that without playing the part of Mary in a nativity program, but having the opportunity to be Mary gave me more perspective somehow.
I'm sure we'll have several young girls in tears this coming Friday when we announce who Mary is and I'll know exactly how they feel as their poor, hopeful hearts break. I think it's sweet that little girls care about this so much. I don't think it's about being in the limelight as much as it is the desire to "be" there when the Savior is born. To hold him, to love him, to welcome him into the world as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
But we can't all be Mary all the time and there really were other important roles. In fact, one of my favorite Christmas songs, The Friendly Beasts, describes exactly how that grumpy looking cow/sheep I played so many years ago loved, served, and sacraficed for the little baby Jesus with as much devotion as his mother Mary. Every part in the Christmas story is important.
Now, how to explain that to a bunch of sobbing six-year-olds?