The baby-Jesus’ head rolled out of the manger when Mary tried picking it up.
Thomas and I were told to get the props for the Christmas Pageant down in the boiler room/ storage area for the ‘ittle day schooo’. Thomas was a little, short, dark brown, lanky, scrawny Indian comedian – feisty as a-little devil working on some crazy antics. They chose two of the wrong kids to get the props. We looked at all the stuff – various gear for the pageant. There we found the three kings and all the boxes of sheperd gear, with 20 or so crooked sticks and some stuffed, cross – eyed sheep. We pulled out the manger and the white ceramic baby Jesus blond hair was frozen in the box. When we pulled, OOPS! his head flew off and cracked into a thousand pieces on the concrete. Damn! Thomas whispered a front toothless “DAMN, what now?” We looked in other boxes and found a black plastic baby doll, and so we pulled his head off and tried to fit it onto the ceramic baby Jesus, with no luck…”DAMN” he sneered “Just wrap him up in the shawl” he said.
Every year before the winter break, we would do a huge Christmas pageant at the day school. Even today many of us talk about the things we remember about the plays we did. The little Pueblo School was amazing in the 70’s and 80’s before Reaganomics destroyed our world. Art, music, P.E. was alive and well.
We even had a full choir and a full blown band playing Christmas tunes. Every class had a certain theme that they would act out. That particular year was a rough winter. Some kind of epidemic Flu virus infested the school. Many times the water pipes froze and so school days were cancelled a few times; however, no mater what was happening, the hard core always showed up at school. Some of us with just a wind breaker on, and all of us wore Chuck Taylor tennis shoes in any season. Rain, snow or shine, Canvas shoes were the normal foot wear. Since very few families had cars, everyone walked to school, and in the quiet season time, people with cars had to keep them snuggled up in the corrals too.
The so called Flu virus didn’t affect the hard-core reservation kids. We always had some nasal drip but never the Flu. The relentless reservation dogs shake off everything with sage, cedar, coffee, tea. Seems we were immune to everything.
So needless to say, there were more boys than girls that winter season so the teachers were TOTALLY ready to start their vacation soon.
The gym and the big Christmas trees were decorated, and we all had our parts assigned to us. That year I wanted to be one of the three Wise-men. I liked their gold and silver crowns. No luck, they chose the Gomez Cuate’s (twins) cause they were taller than me. They actually chose just one, but what one did the other had to do.
The Mahdtooh (teacher) couldn’t find the other crown so they chose Big, who had a head of hair that stood up and looked like a helmet already. The teachers decorated his head, making it look like a crown.
The next cool costume was the sheep herder’s, but the older kids took those right away pushing us away.
Me and the snot dripping runts inherited the manger animals costumes. The spotted cow went to the half breed, big Joycee Haley. She had to kneel on all fours like a cow. Somebody had painted little udders on the costume and put a Juan G brand on it, “Damn..” Thomas whispered all creepy, “one of Juan G’s cows got loose…” Big Joycee was tough and she pushed Thomas with her butt…he went flying into Mahdtooh who gave him the stripped cat costume. It fit him perfectly, and when he was painted up, he looked like an alley cat. “Meaaaow!” he yelled with a pueblo accent.
Fat Gary from the south side hated Thomas cause Thomas’ dad had an affair with Gary’s grandma Rose or something like that. Pueblo gossip is brutal among kids. It can change like the clouds, and who knows what actually happened. However, Gary and Thomas would fight once a month like clock work. They would meet behind the south-side ash pile, and it would end up with one of them crying all the way home.
The rest of us who were left were sheep; however, we needed a Joseph and Mary. They chose one of the teenager flunkies, who snarled at the teacher when he was chosen. We all got quiet when Mahdtooh called out his name “James!” “You’re gonna be this years Joseph!”
He turned around and looked at the outfit. We saw our little mousy teacher slip him two dollars along with the costume.
“Ok” he said, “Who’s gunna be muh Ver-whan?” (virgin)…Everyone laughed.
Since there were only runts and toughies, there weren’t enough girls to play the part of Mary. “I will be Mary…” said the little Irish teacher…
“No way!” yelled the Flunky, “you’re not a Vergeen..”
“Stop it!” she yelled at us all, “The show must go on..” We knew when she was pissed. It was when her faced turned from pale white to reddish pink. She wasn’t there yet.
So the show did go on…only a little more vicious than what most were used too.
In no particular order, these things happened that night:
Thomas and Gary got in a fight back stage. They gave each other black eyes and bloody noses and tore up their costumes.
Joycee, the cow got the flu on stage and she threw up all over the manger.
The flunky Joseph took his money and never showed up, so I became the Virgin Mary and the mousy Irish Mahdtoo became Joseph.
I picked up the baby Jesus and his head fell out of the shawl. Some of the runts freaked-out and kicked it off the stage into the audience. Everyone saw that it was a black doll’s head and everyone being super, superstitious just nonchalantly kicked it around the gym floor. I just stood there with a ceramic white baby with its head missing.
The twins started laughing and couldn’t stop. One of the sheep herders needed to pee so he peed behind one of the sheep. Another fight started. Big’s helmet hair got flat and drooped around his face.
Finally the teacher’s face got red, then pink, then blue, then she staggered off the stage crying.
In classic pueblo fashion, everyone stood up and clapped for their children and their little traditional pageant that made them all laugh.
Irish Mahdtooh apologized, “Maybe next year it will be better…” she whimpered.
It never got better. Every year there were the tough kids, the fighter kids, the wild ones, and the sensitive ones; however, nothing compares to those crazy kids I grew up with.
Some of them died early. Some of them I see as I take Kona and Masa to school. Now we’re the parents, and the little mousy teacher is still there, guiding our kids through another Christmas pageant.
And in Classic Pueblo style and fashion, we will love the show.