Monday, December 15, 2008
Over the River and Through Hell
Mother nature can be so darn vindictive -and I don't think it's because I left my carbon footprint on her freshly mopped kitchen floor. She just has her days, as we all do.
Am I being sexist? I guess it could've very well been the workings of old man winter or jack frost. Or are all three a trio working under the orders of the White Witch of Narnia? Way to go lady -global warning hasn't a chance with you at work.
We started out from Rexburg Saturday morning at 6am. We stopped in Provo for lunch and a few other places to fuel up, but the snow didn't stop for anything. We were stuck in blinding snowfall and gusting wind for nearly the whole 20-hour trip. Normally, that route takes about 12 hours tops. 20 straight hours of constant tension -worrying about where the edge of the road is, are we on it, and when will it end? We didn't see a break in the storm until after passing through Kanab. And then it picked up again after we passed through Page.
We arrived in Flagstaff at 2:30am Sunday morning emotionally taxed, physically exhausted and unrested, sore in the shanks from extensive car-travel time, and never so glad to see the end of a road.
I've heard stories of those who've braved winter's fury in pursuit of some noble cause; good king Wenceslas taking good will to the peaseant, the Santa who visits the Ingalls' little house, the postman who delivers in spite of the bleak weather. Today, more than ever, I look up to these stalwart souls.
All the while along the road, Frost's lines about "downy flake" returned to mind over and again, trying to pull anything "lovely, dark, and deep" out of the experience. And then the odious final stanza rasped out its mocking "miles to go before I sleep".
There is a 20 mile stretch of highway that connects the I-15 with Highway 89 just north of Panguitch. It took us 90 minutes to travel that road. I spent much of that time wishing there was some alternate route, one that might make "all the difference".
My mother and siblings were waiting in Flagstaff for my arrival to take me the rest of the way home. We finally reached Panguitch at 7:30pm. I called Mom and told her to go on home -I wasn't going to be there for another 7 grueling hours.
This meant that I was to miss the blessing of my nephew Trent. Looking on the bright side, I was able to get out of the car, sleep a bit, and go to church with friends in Flagstaff alive.
The words This too shall pass became a consoling motto as we traveled this trecherous road. But there were times when I had my doubts.
I'm thankful for friends who take in stranded students.
I am thankful for the sweet music of the season -I was able to go to the Stake's Christmas Program tonight. My Aunt Karlene sang in it, and my Dad's cousin Jolene was there. It felt like home -though I haven't made it there ...yet.
An older lady recited a story that really touched me. And she recited it. Who does that anymore? Reciting readings, I'm sad to say, is a dying art. I was glad to be there to hear this one:
"There are advantages and disadvantages to living in a small town. One advantage is that everyone knows everyone else. One disadvantage is that everyone knows everyone else. Everyone knew Amy Williams, only child. She had been born seventeen years ago, crippled in body if not in spirit. No one expected her to live, but she had. Everyone knew Amy Williams. Her hunched back and twisted spine were recognizable at a distance. Here she sat outside the choral room door, agonizing.
What am I doing here? She thought to herself. I’ll never be chosen for a part. One advantage to small towns is that they develop traditions. A Christmas tradition in Marysvale was the annual pageant performed in the school auditorium. It had been performed for so many years that no one could remember when it had begun or even who had written it. But it had become the focal point of the Christmas season for many of the townspeople.
I don’t want to go through the rejection again, thought Amy. I try not to care, but I do. I don’t want to be hurt anymore. More people tried out each year for parts in the pageant than could possibly be used. Young children hoped to be shepherd boys, older ones the shepherds or the Wise Men. Those who sang hoped to be part of the angelic choir; a chosen few the innkeeper, the angel of the Lord, Joseph, Mary. Many were turned away for the stage in the old schoolhouse was small. The choir was a dozen or so voices. There was room for only a half dozen shepherds and three wise men.
Mr. Simons will never choose me for a part. I just don’t fit. But at least I don’t have to audition in front of Mrs. Prendergast, mused Amy.
Mrs. Prendergast had been the music teacher at Marysvale High School for more than thirty years. She had cast, coached, directed and accompanied the pageant all those years. When Amy had been a freshman, three years ago, she had tried out for the pageant. Mrs. Prendergast had taken one look at Amy’s misshapen body and in her dragon voice said, “Child, you just don’t fit. I don’t remember anywhere in the script where it calls for a crippled girl.
Everyone would stare at you and that would make you uncomfortable. It would make them uncomfortable, too.”
Without singing a single note, Amy had been thrust back through the choral room door. She shuffled home hurt and humiliated and vowed never to try out again. Then . . . Mrs. Prendergast retired.
This year they had a new choral teacher, Mr. Simons. He was the opposite of Mrs. Prendergast. She had ruled with fear and force. He led with love and compassion. Amy liked him from the first. He demanded perfection, but understood when it was not reached. He coached and corrected with kindness.
And he sang himself with such power. It was he who had asked Amy to see him after class and had suggested she audition for the pageant. I ought to leave now and avoid the pain. There’s no place for a girl like me in the pageant. I don’t want to be rejected again. Still . . . Mr. Simons asked me to try out. I owe it to him. But he’ll never choose me.
I’m going to leave before it’s my turn. As Amy struggled to her feet, the door was pushed open and Mr. Simons called out, “Amy, you’re next.” He sat at the piano, waiting to accompany her.
When she finished singing, Mr. Simons said, “Thank you, Amy. The list will be posted tomorrow.”
She struggled all night long. Back and forth her mind went between the reality of knowing she didn’t fit and the great need to be accepted. By morning she had a knot in the pit of her stomach and could not bring herself to look at the list on the choral room door. But as her third-period music class approached, she knew that avoiding it would not change the outcome.
Timidly, fearfully, she looked at the list. At the bottom of the page was listed the heavenly choir. As she suspected, her name was not among those listed. Rejected again! She turned to enter the class when her eye caught her name posted at the top of the page. She, Amy Williams, had been chosen to sing the only solo part in the whole pageant. She was to be the angel of the Lord. She was to sing to the Christ child, the Son of God.
There had to be a mistake. Certainly Mr. Simons would not put her in that part. It was so visible. “Amy,” called Mr. Simons from the piano, “we need to talk about your part after class.”
Class seemed to last forever. Finally it ended and she made her way to Mr. Simon’s side. “You wanted to talk to me?” “Amy, I hope this doesn’t upset you, but I need to stage your part a little differently this year.” Hidden offstage, she thought.
Mr. Simons continued: “I would like to have a pyramid built, place the other angels on it, and put you at the very top. I know in the past they’ve put the angel just a bit above the shepherds, but I think the message you sing is the central part of the pageant.”
The years of hurt exploded. “You don’t want me in the middle of the stage! Won’t the way I look ruin the whole thing? You don’t want me where everybody will stare at me!”
“Amy, I chose you because you deserve the part. What you think of yourself, I cannot change. That is something only you can deal with. I have no problem with you singing this part, and in this pageant the angel of the Lord is center stage. You must come to peace with yourself or you must tell me to choose someone else for the part. It is your decision.”
That night Amy made her decision. The rehearsals were exhausting. Her body ached after struggling to the top of the pyramid, but great joy filled her heart. One advantage to living in a small town is that when there is a community event, everyone attends. And so it was the Sunday before Christmas when the whole town of Marysvale attended the Christmas pageant. Amy Williams, only child, misshapen of body if not of spirit, stood on the top of a silver-white pyramid and sang her heart out to the Christ child . . . and to his brother.
Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
What Child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? . . .
Never had the angel sung more sweetly. No one had realized how sick Amy really was, I suppose, because they were so used to seeing her broken body. So it was a shock when she died that next Tuesday. Her mother conveyed a last request from Amy to Mr. Simons. Would he please sing at her funeral? “I’ve never been in your church. It would be very difficult.” The excuses continued, but in the end he agreed.
And so that Christmas Eve two of Amy’s classmates, two boys from the bass section, helped Mr. Simons from his wheelchair and supported him as he sang for a daughter of God, as she has sung for his Son. There are advantages to living in a small town."
Try reciting that, will you? I don't know the author or origin of the story. I just found this copy on some old expired web page. After such a wonderful evening, like a goose who's just reached a tropical climate, all thoughts of a trecherous southward journey have nearly vanished.
Let's cook the goose and eat it for Christmas dinner.