Every year I attend the Christmas programs of my charges, and this year was no exception. Yesterday I sat through a beautifully preformed holiday musical event that left every adult eye tearful, and every heart properly full of Christmas cheer. I too, was honking loudly into a tissue, less than three minutes into the program. However, at any such production, I am plagued with an involuntary, neurotic eyelid twitch, coupled with an itching anxiety…and these things are attributable to one tiny, two year old boy, who was my charge many Christmases ago.
It was the day of the Christmas Sing-along for my charge’s two-year-old preschool class, and since both of his parents had to work that day, I would be attending, and filming their son in action. It was the tot’s very first performance, and family members from all over the country were anticipating the arrival of my video…No pressure, though.
I arrived early and secured a prime spot for filming on the floor, directly in front of the seating area. When the children were marched on stage in three rows, I was happy to discover that my charge was placed front and center. Everything was perfect. The lights dimmed, Christmas music began to play and a spotlight shone directly on the happy children, who all began to sing “Jingle Bells”… with the exception of one…my charge.
It appeared as though my charge had discovered his “Special Friend” with his right hand. For this purpose, we will call him, “He who is always with us.” Not only had my charge discovered the presence of “He who is always with us,” he had determined there were many interesting and pleasurable ways in which to manipulate him.
As I turned several different shades of red, a murmur rippled through the crowd. It was difficult to decipher…was it a snicker, or a gasp? I tried to make visual contact with my charge in an attempt to interrupt the innocent, yet lascivious activity. He finally looked at me near the end of “Jingle Bells.” Using all of the expression I could muster, I mouthed the word “S-I-N-G,” flapping my hands in encouragement. He awakened from his trance and joined the group in singing, “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.”
Although I was thankful he was singing, and his eyes were focused on the crowd, as opposed to “He who is always with us,” I was still not able to raise the camera and film the child for his adoring family. This was due to the fact that my charge chose to pluck at “He who is always with us” in time with the music, as though it were some type of attached string instrument, while he sang along with great enthusiasm.
The song ended and my charge smiled proudly, clearly enjoying the applause. The music for “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” began, and the children sang, and acted-out the much loved classic. Again, there was one exception…my charge. He was once again “strumming” his new-found instrument and singing along with great gusto. I noticed he was even tapping his foot along in time with the music. I can say this for him…he has rhythm.
By this time, the murmurs have turned into outright snickers and giggles. Cameras clicked all around me, and I noticed more than one aimed directly at my charge. I put my forehead in my hand and waited for the song to end. When it finally did, my charge, once again, bowed proudly, waving his hands in the air, as though he had just won American Idol.
Thankfully, the two-year-old class sang only two songs and exited immediately, which was extremely fortunate, because by this time, I appeared to a have severe and unmedicated case of Tourettes syndrome. I was twitching away, while shouting out small words and phrases that I tried to cleverly disguise as coughs or sneezes…”Stopdoingthat” and “Letgoofyourdinky!” This was not one of my better ideas and very clearly did not produce the desired outcome.
I felt exhausted after the program and had no idea how to answer to blissful child who asked with pure excitement… “Did you see me, Nanny? How did I do?”
I continued to twitch and stutter, searching desperately for positive verbiage. “You have really great rhythm, honey,” I said, knowing he had no idea what rhythm was.
“I know, he continued, I’ve been practicing EVERY DAY at school.” He said with a toothy grin.
“Wow…every day…I’m sure that was a lot of fun.” I answered.
Driving the boy home, I was consumed with how to tell his family that I was unable to video even a moment of his very first Christmas program, while the tot cheerfully kicked the back of my car seat, humming “Jingle Bells.” I settled on a condensed version of the story, apologized profusely and made up some excuse about the large crowd and complete lack of sight-lines. The family was, of course, disappointed, but given the alternative…?
As luck would have it, a note arrive at the house from the preschool three days later, announcing the sale of Christmas program video tapes. The child’s mother was absolutely elated and rushed to order three copies…one for the nuclear family, and one for each set of grandparents. Again, I put my forehead in my hand and rubbed away the oncoming tension headache. My eye began to twitch. It was time to call the dreaded meeting.
The parents sat silently through our meeting, vacillating frequently between amusement and utter horror. The videos arrived in a plain brown rapper, which I thought appropriate, given its X-rated content. Two of the tapes were immediately destroyed, one was locked away in the family safe for future viewing (and probably blackmail). The grandparents were none the wiser, but among preschool parents and staff, my charge will forever be known as, “The Little Minstrel.”