I am sadly lacking in the Christmas Spirit this year. Aches and pains, financial difficulties, worries about the future, cold and snowy weather and a general malaise have all combined to make me dread the approaching holidays.
Therefore, I am trying to write posts that inspire me, as the previous post did, or take me back to my happy childhood, as this one does:
Along about the first week of December, the little one-room school I attended in Larson, ND, became a totally different place. A small crew of dads or the teacher's friends would come in to move all the desks to the right side of the room, and then they would build the stage on the left side.
When they were finished they would help the teacher hang the "theatre" curtain. It was a vintage, damask-type print with flowers on a plum-colored background, probably made from drapery fabric. It stretched from one end of the room to the other. On either side of the stage, the teacher hung plain white bed sheets to hide the activity in the wings.
I remember that the carpenters always used fresh lumber for the foot-high stage, and the clean scent of fresh wood would cling in the air for weeks, mingled with the fresh scent of pine. Yes, before they left, they would put up a real tree with lights. (You'll never see that in a school building these days!)
Once the stage was finished and the tree lit, the room was completely transformed. It was, in a word, magic.
All through the weeks leading up to the program, Mrs. Marston would set aside time for practice. Although I don't remember most of the programs' contents, I do know that we sang sacred and secular songs both. Thank goodness I grew up before Christmas carols were banned from school Christmas programs. The teacher would bang away at the old upright piano while we lustily sang, "Away in a manger, no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head..." (For years I thought the last line was "and stay by my cradle 'til morning is night.")
When I was 11 and in sixth grade, the final year at the one-room school, I was given the honor of reciting the entire poem, "The Night Before Christmas" ("A Visit From St. Nicholas") by Clement Clarke Moore.
I would sail along with no trouble all the way through "Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! on Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
But I always stumbled when I got to:
"As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky..."
To me, it was a tongue-tangler, and besides, dry fall leaves had nothing to do with Christmas! But I recovered and went on:
"So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With a sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too."
"AND HE LOOKED LIKE A PEDDLER
JUST OPENING HIS PACK"
That final year, I had the most splendid Christmas dress to date. It was a lovely rose color and with it I wore nylons for the first time. This was in the days before pantyhose. My nylons were held up by elastic bands which squeezed my legs but made me feel proud at how grown up I was.
I also had beautiful "velvet" slip-ons. I was so proud of them that I kept sliding my foot out from behind the curtain as we waited in the wings. That came to an end when an audience member stomped on my foot. Unknown to me, I had a dusty shoe print on my beautiful velvet slipper all through the evening!
The night of the program the school was always filled with friends and family members waiting to applaud us no matter how good or bad we were. Fortunately, we usually made it through the program with only a few faux pas. After the program, Santa Claus would bring us little brown bags of candy which always contained the same things: Chocolate drops, ribbon candy and other hard Christmas candy, peanuts and a popcorn ball.
This night marked the start of Christmas vacation. We would return to school in January to find the stage dismantled and the desks in their usual position. The magic was gone for another year, and it was hard to get back to business as usual.
"THE STUMP OF A PIPE HE
HELD TIGHT IN HIS TEETH."
If you enjoyed these vintage Christmas postcards, and wish to read the beloved poem in its entirety, visit the link below. This cool site uses the three images I've shown plus 17 others to illustrate the poem. Each card perfectly matches the lines it is matched up with!