Last Friday night, the Town of Clinton hosted its annual Christmas parade. What were they thinking?! It was pouring rain! Not mist, not quaint, little raindrops – buckets, barrels, Noah-build-the-Ark kind of rain. Imagine being sprayed in the face (and everywhere else) with a hose, and the nozzle is set on full force. Then imagine the air temperature and the water temperature hovering just this side of freezing. Now you get the picture. And there I was, right in the middle of it.
And why was I there? Well, Immaculate Conception School creates a float of the Nativity for the parade each year, and our Eighth graders play all of the roles. This year, my eighth grade daughter was honored to play the Blessed Virgin Mary, and you certainly can’t have the Nativity without the BVM. As a side note, with her own twist on the Annunciation, my daughter informed my wife and me that she was playing Mary by saying, “Oh, by the way, I’m pregnant . . . with Jesus!” She lost me at “pregnant.” Anyway, the parade must go on – and so it did.
Because all of the roads were closed around the staging area and the parade route, I had to walk my daughter to the float to drop her off. Once we got there, I had two choices – walk back about a mile in the rain to our car (did I mention that it was pouring rain?), or walk alongside the float in the rain (again, pouring rain). I then had the great idea that I could ride in the nice, warm truck that pulled the float. So I eagerly tapped on the window thinking that these nice parishioners surely would let the Deacon ride in the truck. Alas, I was summarily informed that “there was no room in the truck.” Now I know how Mary and Joseph felt.
About that time, a thoroughly drenched music teacher asked if I wanted to ride on the float. At this point, I thought, why not? Riding in the rain beats walking in the rain. So I grabbed a plastic bag to sit on and took my place in front of the stable among the angels, the Magi the shepherds and two very dedicated teachers. The stable had a nice little roof over it – I never thought a stable could look so inviting. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I was ticked off that my daughter was nice and dry in the stable while I was out in the open getting soaked. I briefly contemplated snatching the blue robes from her and playing the Virgin Mary myself, but decided that stealing the clothes off Mary's back wasn't the example I should set on a parochial school float at a Christmas parade. I later learned, though, that the roof leaked and, without walls, the stable provided no shelter against the horizontal sheets of rain. It made me feel better that the Holy Family couldn't even catch a break on this night!
As you can tell, I wasn't feeling very Christmassy. I was cold; I was wet; and my heart was nothing less than two sizes too small. But when the parade began (15 minutes late, I’ll add), a miracle happened. Our children started singing Christmas Carols. They waved to the spectators and shouted, “Merry Christmas!” at the top of their lungs to anyone and everyone who could hear them. No complaints, no whining. Just Christmas. And what did I do? I sang right along with them. It was beautiful. It was inspiring. It was sacred.
So with a tip of the hat to Dr. Seuss, I dedicate this Ode to those wonderful students, their devoted teachers and the selfless volunteers who helped out (OK, even to the ones who wouldn't let me in the truck):
Every child on that float, the tall and the small,
Continued to sing as rain pelted them all.
It hadn't stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Deacon, his behind so wet in a puddle,
Sat puzzling and puzzling, his brain all a-muddle.
It came without fires, nor eggnog nor rum,
It came with rain soaking him through to the bum.
And he puzzled two hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Deacon remembered what he’d heard before.
Christmas just started in small Bethlehem,But continues this day ‘cause a little child leads them.