A petticoat? What’s that?
They looked at me as if I had asked them to rob a bank. I repeated, “I want you to each wear a petticoat under your angel costume.” No one spoke.
Finally, one young girl asked, “What’s a petticoat?”
“You know, a petticoat is a slip,” I replied.
“What’s a slip?” another girl ventured.
“Do any of you wear a camisole?” I asked. Many of them nodded. “Well, a slip is a long camisole except it comes down below your knees. We used to wear them when I was young so people couldn’t see through our dresses.” The angels exchanged glances among themselves, and I didn’t bring up the subject again. I had marked myself a survivor of the age of dinosaurs and prayed that I would survive this whole experience, this inability of mine to say no when anyone asks me to direct a Christmas pageant.
The holidays are over now, and the angel halos and wings are put away for another year, as are the shepherds’ staffs and wise men’s gifts. But a few thoughts still reverberate in my memory. This year’s experience has brought me once again to the reminder to always try, at least once a year, to connect with this younger generation. Yes, it’s great to be with your grandchildren often or with the neighborhood children, but be sure to spend some concentrated time with teenagers. This is a great way to prevent a fossilization of attitude and to be reminded of how much you really don’t know.
This year I learned that the world is still full of young people who are interested in making it a better place and that there are parents who will chauffeur them to help with this. I also learned there are still children who will hide from the “head shepherd” just before it’s time to go onstage, just to give him grief. That “head” shepherd, by the way, was my loving husband, George. George, wielding his shepherd staff, had to deal with the other young shepherds who insisted on wrestling with each other or wheeling about in a wheelchair they found and just acting like “boys” in general as they awaited their cue. George’s beard is now grayer, but his attorney’s sense of justice has been broadened.
The female teenagers never did wear petticoats, but they did leave their Reeboks in the dressing room in favor of white socks, and the kindergartners still were so stunned by the spotlight that only two of them remembered the motions to “Away in a Manger.” It was comforting to know that although much has changed, not much has changed. The petticoats are just shorter.