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Friday, 14 December 2012

The Alternative Nativity Play

The nativity play was scheduled for exactly one week after EB’s due date.  In the last weeks of my pregnancy I crossed my fingers and prayed that EB wouldn’t be late. I was desperate to see Pip in his first nativity play.  It was a milestone I’d looked forward to.

I love the story of the nativity, seeing the small children dressed as kings, shepherds and angels and singing around the crib.  For me, it epitomises the true meaning of Christmas.  In my childless years, I contented myself with watching children dressed up at the early evening carol service on Christmas eve, but, I always hoped that one day I would get to watch my own child in a nativity.  When I was in labour with EB, I said to Husband whilst wallowing in the birthing pool, "At least I’ll get to see the nativity play now". Nothing was going to keep me from watching Pip’s thespian debut.

We filed into the church on the grey winter’s morning last week, EB sleeping soundly in his pram; I prayed silently that my youngest lion cub would sleep peacefully and not awaken and choose to elevate his roar to full extent within the churches elevated arches. He didn’t, and slept peacefully the whole time.

Pip’s face as he entered the church and saw us in the pews was a picture. He was so excited that we had come to watch him perform. He looked fabulous,  my little king; resplendent in a jade green sparkly cloak and a glitter crown (although I actually think it looked more like a Bishop’s mitre.)  Someone had been handy with the face paint and he sported a fetching, black goatee beard.  He delivered his gift of Myrrh to baby Jesus with a deferential bow, and then made off with his human camel.  It was an Oscar worthy performance.

A sea of apple phones videoed and photographed every movement of the twenty five little people that populated the altar of the church.  Cameras mounted on tripods recorded, SLR’s flashed.  In the midst of it all, I tried my best to take some pictures, but for some reason, the automatic setting on my trusty camera failed me.  Whether the light in the church was too poor, or the camera had a fault I did not know. I found myself becoming tearful.  Why was the camera not working? Why couldn’t I get a good shot of my little king?  Husband had a go, his attempts were no better.  I felt panic rising. Adrenalin coursing through me. His first nativity; I had to get a good picture.  The mother next to me sporting a Canon SLR seemed to be getting great shots from what I could see on her preview screen. Why couldn’t I? Flash, flash, flash went my camera, but still the shots were dark, Pip barely visible.  Exasperated, I wanted to scream. Tears pricked the backs of my eyes.

Perhaps a divine being was looking down on me in that moment in that church.  Someone with greater clarity than I, and able to see the bigger picture.  For somehow, in those moments, I was able to realise that I was getting myself into rather an unnecessary mess.

The voice of reason spoke to me; "Why not just enjoy the moment? Sit back, marvel at the chorus of slightly out of tune voices, the happy smiling faces, the small boy dancing like a camel that has spent too long drinking from a trough of Lucozade.  You don’t have to capture every moment of your child’s life in picture perfect form.  You’re missing the best bits by faffing around with the camera. Be present in the moment."

When I got a grip of myself, I felt much better.  I realised, hiding behind a camera, trying to capture the perfect picture sometimes can stop you seeing the bigger picture.  Stop you seeing those small sideways glances; those looks that say; ‘Are you watching me, Mum? ‘Are you proud of me?’. Focussing on whether to switch between auto focus and manual to try and get the best shot, distracts and can stop you giving those encouraging smiles back, those silent high fives that fly from the audience to the stage.  Afterwards, as we ate mince pies in the church hall, I wished I’d pulled myself together sooner.  I felt a little sad.

That evening, using the spare bed as a stage, Pip decided we should all participate in an impromptu ‘alternative’ nativity play. I was allocated the role of Mary, Husband was Joseph, and a toy Hippopotamus was baby Jesus.  We were all directed by Pip with great precision; I hadn't realised he was such a Spielberg in the making.  The King (Pip) bought gifts of Pyjamas and Pyjama socks to baby Hippo Jesus.  He sang a lovely song about the Greatest Star, one I’d missed earlier that day, probably when I was pre-occupied with my camera woes, and another song, ‘Rat-a-tat- tat’ as he knocked on the door of our imaginary stable. EB slept peacefully in the moses basket, and as my older son delighted me with his imagination, I made sure that I was present in the moment, every second of it.

Pip’s play had a very different ending, Mary and Joseph were told that they needed to chase the King around the upstairs of the house, because, apparently, all Kings like to be chased - and to run away as fast as they possibly can, chuckling and squealing with delight.

As I tucked my little King into bed that night, I held the memories of the second play as close to me as the first one that day. It was almost like he’d known, and given me a second chance to see the best bits, my own private show. 

A lesson learnt; sometimes the memories themselves are worth more than the time spent trying to capture them.

10 comments:

  1. what a lovely post and after reading this i too realised your right! we speed too much time whittling about getting it right and catching every moment that we do miss out.

    In time you will probably remember the impromptu performance more then the original.

    xx

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    1. Yes, you're probably right. The impromptu performance definitely had Pip playing more of a starring role too!

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  2. A very lovely and poignant post, but I could also totally relate with your frustration with the situation (your camera not working), and something so easy to get caught up in especially as this was a moment you'd really been looking forward to for a very long time and then the damn camera wasn't working! Still, at least EB was born in time, slept like a dream and you got to enjoy Pips first nativity performance - and sounds like he did so well, and I loved his alternative version. I hope you all enjoy a very special Christmas this year! XXX. Ps. you will always remember these performances!

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    1. Technology is not my strong point - I just rely on it working 'normally', as soon as something goes wrong I get very flustered. But, as you say, at least I made it to the play, and I was very grateful EB did not decide to roar during the performance and I wasn't left sitting in the front pew trying to placate him - as this would no doubt have involved getting my breasts out..not something I mind if they're happy to latch on quickly..but he seems to like to have a good shout first before he does this. Not big on preserving my discretion my youngest son. :0). A very Happy Christmas to you too. x

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  3. I remember filming my eldest's Nativity and watching it back, wishing I'd actually watched the live show properly, rather than through the screen, i.e I wish I'd done exactly what you've said and since then, that's what I try to do. You're absolutely right and I'm glad you got to enjoy it - more than once! You sound so content and calm, I can feel you radiating pleasure!

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    1. Ah, thank you so much. I do feel pretty calm - it might just be I'm so tired though that it's induced a zombie like hypnotic state!

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  4. How beautiful, I loved reading this :) I am so with you on the photo thing, just hearing you getting into a pickle over the 'dark' photos, brought a lump to my throat and a small smile. I have been there so many times! The lovely memories you have in your head will be enough, and perhaps you could steal one or two photos from the lady with the SLR next to you?!

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    1. My husband is v. good at living in the moment and often says to me put the camera away, just enjoy it. I need to try and do that more. After all, how often do we really look back on the trillions of photos we take nowadays?

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  5. I'm glad you were able to finally sit back and enjoy the moment. You're right ... we seem to be so busy trying to capture everything, whether in film or words, that we can forget to relax and just enjoy things. Pip sounds like he made a fantastic king x

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    1. Thanks FFHM, he was a fantastic king, but then, I am v. biased :0). x

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