Sister Marie DeLourdes finished her list of the characters in the first grade Christmas pageant and stepped back from the blackboard.
“Students, these are the roles in the Christmas pageant that we need to fill. We’ll go down the list, one by one, and I’d like you to nominate someone in the class who you think would do a good job in the role.”
She used her pointer to direct our eyes to the first name on the list. The Virgin Mary.
Hands flew into the air as several students offered their suggestions for the person who should play the Virgin Mary. And then we voted.
Sister Marie DeLourdes continued on down the list. Finally she reached the character of the Shepherd Chief. I raised my hand to nominate my friend Lance for the role. Lance also had his hand in the air. Sister Marie DeLourdes called on Lance first.
“I suggest Steve Danko,” he said.
“Very good,” Sister said as she wrote my name on the board. “Would anyone else like to nominate someone?”
I did not raise my hand again. After all, it would seem strange for Lance to nominate me and then for me to nominate him for the same role.
“If there are no more suggestions, then Stephen Danko will play the role of the Shepherd Chief,” Sister Marie DeLourdes declared.
She then handed out scripts to each student who would participate in the pageant. My script had all the lines for the Shepherd Chief marked with a star.
I brought my script home with and showed my mother. She looked over the script, congratulated me for winning the role, and then the work began.
For days afterward, in the evenings before I went to bed, my mother and I rehearsed the lines together in the kitchen. I knew my lines perfectly and was anxious for the time I would recite them in the pageant. My mother made the Shepherd Chief’s costume as described in the script: a bathrobe and a stick for a shepherd’s crook. I was ready.
Then, on December 12, my mother called me over to her and asked, “Stephen, how long have you had these spots on your face?”
“What spots?” I asked.
And then, just a week before the pageant, my mother diagnosed that I had the Chicken Pox.
“I’m sorry, but you can’t go to school and you can’t be in the Christmas pageant,” my mother told me.
I was miserable. Moreover, I was worried.
“But, I have to go to school and be in the Christmas pageant,” I protested. “Who will play the Shepherd Chief? How can they put on the pageant without the Shepherd Chief? Nobody else knows the lines! They’re depending on me!”"
My mother called the school to inform Sister Marie DeLourdes of the sad situation. We discovered that I was not the only student in the class with Chicken Pox. Sister Marie DeLourdes had had to recast several of the roles in the pageant. Someone else would be the Shepherd Chief.
Despondent, but relieved that the pageant wouldn’t have to be cancelled because of me, I accepted the fact that I would have to stay home.
My chance to appear on the stage would have to wait for another time.
Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 16.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko