I am a tall female. I am now 5’ 9.5”. I was 5’4” at the age of 10 years old. When one is tall she must accept her end of the height spectrum. I stopped wearing Danskos because elderly men would stop me in the store and inquire as to the specifications of my height. The pilot is taller than I am, but he slouches. So, I have these gorgeous heels that are still too tall to wear in public…
My mother says my spiritual gift is to help shorter people get things off shelves. I love that in my community the petite, elderly ladies feel comfortable coming up to me in a store and asking if I would come help them with a high item. “The next time a tall person comes by, would he or she please____?” is a common request when I visit my parents. My mother insists she’s average, but my sister cheekily refers to her as “the short one” in her emails.
All that to say, being tall wasn’t always something I celebrated. Maybe it’s good my own height realization trauma happened so early in my life.
So, a set up: ALL little girls want to be Mary in the Christmas pageant. They know they might not get there, but that role is like the SUGAR PLUM FAIRY, people! That is why Imogene Herdman in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” scared her rivals away from being Mary. I WANTED TO BE MARY. I was 4. Mary had never been played by someone under 9 or 10. I knew that year wouldn’t be my year. I would be an angel. My perfect cousin Ingrid, whom I was ALWAYS trying to emulate or being told I ought to emulate, at the age of 7, was cast as Mary.
Fine. Not a problem. 4 year olds don’t get cast as Mary. I’ll be happy to be an angel with a sparkly halo and sparkly wings and a little fake candle and a sparkly hem. I’ll sing my favorite song “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
“You’re tall for your age, and all the angels are smaller than you, we thought you’d make a wonderful wiseman.”
ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME was not something I would learn for another decade, but this turned into my first experience with it!
My mother the optimist played up the positives: “you get to wear a crown! You get to wear a splendid cape! You will carry gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Your character would ride a camel! You came from Persia! You follow the Star of Bethlehem! You protect Jesus from Harrod!”
All I could think was how depressed I was that Ingrid got to be Mary and I didn’t even get to be an angel! I had to be a wiseman. I was a really dejected four-year-old.
The cape was gorgeous. So pretty I still haven’t been able to get rid of it.
At play practice we carried ourselves like noble magi in the presence of the Son of God. We practiced kneeling and presenting the gifts. We practiced going over to stage left after marching in and dying of boredom standing still while the angel choir sang all my favorite songs and Ingrid recited her lines. I understand about not coveting now, but I didn’t then.
The night of the pageant rolled on. Gabriel, Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Zecariah, sheep, shepherds, ANGELS and the little drummer boy…blah blah blah.
The music for the “March of the Three Kings” came on and Matthew, Benji, and I walked elegantly and ceremoniously down the aisle in a rehearsed lock-step pattern. We lined up, bowed, knelt, and presented our gifts. We took our places on stage left.
The person who cast me as a wiseman probably didn’t mean any harm. I was 4 and tall. That’s too young for lots of lines and too tall for angels, apparently. What do you do with a tall 4 year old girl in the Christmas pageant? What happened next completely justified her decision not to cast me as an angel!
I don’t remember this, but apparently I totally checked out. I’d done my job. I’d done it well. The rest of the play didn’t involve me, so who cared? It was time for me to be an angel. I loved to dance, and my angel would dance!
I ran up and down the aisle while the pageant went on, my magi cape trailing behind me. I don’t know if I twirled a lot or leapt, but I loved to dance. I probably did. I apologize to my cousin Ingrid and all the other castmembers who somehow kept going throughout my improve choreography in the center aisle of Merton Memorial Methodist. I am deeply grateful to them for never bringing it up.
Normally, when I did this, my dad would discretely reach out and grab me with his long arm, pull me close and in a stage whisper tell me to BEHAVE. He never specified what that meant, really, but it distracted me long enough to stop whatever offense I committed. My mother tells me she and my father were 2 seats from the aisle in the second pew and they were absolutely helpless to stop me. “WHAT IS SHE DOING?” my father asked in a stage whisper.
“I can’t reach her, honey,” my mom said. “She wanted to be an angel.”
“CAN’T YOU DO SOMETHING?” No. The answer was no.
The little drummer boy kept banging his drum even when his song was over (showoff) and would just hit it randomly. Tat! His mother kept trying to signal him to stop. Rat-a-tat! He kept hitting his drum tat-tat-tat but added shouts of “What do you want me to do mamma?” Rat-a-tat! “What Mamma?” Ba-rumpumpumpum “What are you trying to tell me, mamma?” Rumpumpumpum
The little drummer boy’s mom got the whole thing on videotape. She watches it when she’s sad.
When I was 10, they cast me as Gabriel. The angel costume was too short for me, so I wore that as the top and pinned white material to my underpants so I would be covered.
I’ve never been Mary, but I got as far as angel territory…