Christmas I remember best: Pageantry, pancakes make angelic memories

By Vivian Seastrand Evans

For The Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 21 2010 12:36 a.m. MST

The dream-filled, restless night finally ended when Papa Seastrand called from the hallway: "Everybody up. Pancakes are ready."

Pancakes? This brought the clan of 10 abruptly to their feet and all scrambled into clothes that had been carefully laid out the night before.

Pancakes! No whole wheat mush to chew this morning? Right! Today was Christmas, the best day of the whole year. Everything special happened today.

All the Seastrands — big, medium and little — knelt in a circle by their chairs as Bishop Seastrand blessed his family and thanked Father in Heaven for the numerous blessings which fell on us. Enthusiastically, we pushed to get to the table as Papa placed a large, lightly browned pancake on each of the 10 plates then heaped freshly churned butter, honey and some of Grandma's strawberry jam on top. It seemed strange not to have Mama dishing up whole wheat cereal, but we managed to accept the situation. Besides, today was Mama's day.

Mama loved to write plays and this year the stake had chosen her Christmas pageant to be presented in the Alpine Stake Tabernacle this very morning. She had worked for weeks rehearsing, making costumes and helping build scenery so it would truly be the best pageant ever.

The pancakes were devoured and the dishes, with a special allowance for Christmas, were stacked in the sink as each family member hurriedly pulled their wraps on. The temptation was too great for Number Three and Number Four girls (Lilly and me) to sneak to the living room door and peek in to see if Santa had made it to our house yet, but a resounding spank on our respective bottoms took the temptation away when Mama caught us.

"The spiritual side of Christmas first … always," Mama said soothingly.

Grandma Robinson arrived as we all lined up, so Papa instructed us that we would use the back door and that a surprise awaited us there. The moon was still beaming upon the newly fallen snow at 5:30 a.m., and since the snow was too deep to expect the Willys-Knight monstrosity to plow through, we would all walk the two blocks to the tabernacle. Some of us could ride, however, for there, leaning against the house all roped and ready to go, were two enormous red sleds. With squeals of delight, all clamored on board.

It was decided that some must push and some must pull, so with Mama and Papa pulling, Sally and Jenny pushing and Grandma carrying the angel costumes, we dashed off through the snow, singing "Jingle Bells" at the top of our exuberant voices.

As we approached the tabernacle, we all gasped at once. The building was lit with brilliant lights from head to toe and an enormous Christmas tree stood in front. Mary Humphries was playing the organ and the strains of "O Come All Ye Faithful" crescendoed and diminuendoed across the glistening snow.

Excitement raced even higher inside as Lilly and I helped each other into our white cheese-cloth angel costumes. But oh, horrors! My new black sateen bloomers showed dark through the material. A hurried consultation with the director, Mama, brought a piece of old sheet wrapped snugly around my waist, but it was so tight that I couldn't move. Another consultation resulted in my being placed in position on stage, at the foot of the manger, and told to stay there.

We were ready. Howard Paxman and Mary H. took turns at the organ, K.J. Bird tapped the music stand, Tabby Grant and Bun Shelley started to sing and the pageant started. Mary and Joseph approached the inn and then were sent to the stable. The little angel "Vivy" was slightly in the way, but they went around.

As a small angel, I had a front seat and watched while the Baby Jesus was placed on the hay, and I even sang along with the choir which was hidden behind the organ pipes. I jumped, about out of my skin, when a shepherd excitedly called out: "Awake, awake! Look the sky is on fire!"

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