I was one of the 3 Kings.
6th grade. St. Alphonsus Elementary. Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
I'm guessing probably late November. We sturdy 5- 6th graders were vying for roles of a lifetime in the Christmas Pageant. I was knee-deep in that “Maybe-I-Can-Be-An-Actress!” phase of girlhood. I was probably riding that wave of popularity that came from winning the Speech Contest the year prior, and thought only I would dazzle the audience as Mary, Mother of Jesus. I guess I thought no one else could sell that role. I probably thought people would see me up there on that little stage and stand up and say, “Why, she’s JUST. LIKE . MARY!!! The other girls were CRAP compared to Sarah!!!!” That role was gonna be mine.
Except it wasn’t. (It went to Juliana Skelton, I think, who actually did a great job. )
The audition process for roles in the Christmas Pageant went like this: Sister Rochelle* wrote the name of the character on the board. Anyone who wanted to play the role raised their hand. She wrote the names down. We closed our eyes. Sister Rochelle spoke the names of the nominees and we raised our hands to vote for who should play the role. When we opened our eyes we saw the name of the person who had the most votes and BLAM! You’re a star!
There were 3 roles for girls. Mary, Mother of Jesus, and 2 angels (one a speaking role, I think.) So the role of Mary went to Juliana. I was crushed. I saw her name on the board and thought anything from sabotage, to favoritism, to “knows-someone”, and ultimately realized she was just like me, wanting to “make it!” So I let it go quickly. Besides, there were 2 other roles.
Aaaaaannnd strike 2.
Aaaaannnnd strike 3.
My little dreams of accepting Academy Awards were dashed. Just ripped to pieces by rabid little Yuletide dogs with sharp little teeth. God did not want me to play Mary or his little angels. God didn’t think I was good enough. Or at least that's how it felt.
The girls sighed, knowing their chances were up. Only boys roles from here on out. Behind my disappointed eyes I started to shut out the world while I tried to recover from a broken heart and broken dreams. And then, I got mad.
I don’t like needless restrictions. Even as a little girl! If it didn’t make sense to me I probably said something. I still do! If the emperor has no clothes I’m gonna point to his doodle and say, “HEY! I can see your doodle! (your majesty, haha.)” THAT is who I am. If something doesn’t make sense I will point it out. Who says that the 3 Kings HAVE to be played by boys? Where is that written in stone? Huh? SHOW ME! This role is just for boys? Boys who can’t read well, and freeze onstage, and have the emotional range of peas? Would YOU want to see your kings that way? I don’t want to see my kings that way! I want my king to stand up there regally! With purpose! This is a KING who travelled over the desert to give presents of gold, frankincense, or myrrh to a baby he thought was the physical embodiment of his GOD. You want to trust THAT kind of responsibility to a kid who throws pennies at girls then picks his nose AND eats it? REALLY?
When I was little, I didn’t want to be a princess - helpless, dependent, useless. I wanted to be Robin Hood, Bruce Lee, Mr Spock, Dr Who (Actually, I wanted to date Dr Who.) Those were the roles of a boy, not a girl. I wanted to fight injustice. Sarah! Fighting for the little things, the oppressed, the forgotten, the Misfit Toys. Little Sarah.
I thought, “WHY did this have to be a boy’s role? They can’t handle this. I mean, LOOK at them for God’s sake!
And I made up my mind, right there. I was NOT going to be the kind of girl who let some institution dictate my future to me. I was not going to sit quietly and watch boys who knew less than me and acted immaturely walk away with everything they didn’t deserve because they were boys and I was a girl. It wasn’t fair. It was injustice! I wanted that role more than ever now. I wanted to be a KING.
I raised my hand.
AND was selected.
AND played the role well.**
AND I was the first girl to do so. I WAS. Since then I have heard that other girls had played the role. Gender restrictions have been lifting in the halls of St. Alphonsus due to my “Stands-With-A-Fist” attitude toward women’s rights in the Catholic elementary educational arena.
I was thinking about that memory and that part of my personality the last few days. I was one of the three kings. I suppose that was a kind of a little turning point for me. It was a cosmic "go". Pushing the boundary and not being satisfied with the status quo.
*Sister Rochelle needs to take a bow. She ALLOWED me to play a King. SHE took as big a chance as I did, in a nun’s habit, during the male-chauvinistic 70’s, in a Catholic school. THAT takes guts. She believed in me and I will never forget her .
**The story of the actual play was pretty funny, actually. Baby Jesus was a baby doll Juliana brought with her to school. But Baby Jesus was, well…. well-loved, obviously, and showed some wear and tear. During the pivotal performance, when we kings gathered around to pay our respects, Joseph or Mary was so nervous, (or seeking comic relief) that they rocked the manger (a toy crib) so violently that Baby Jesus head came off. No one cold see this from the audience, just us poor actors. We stifled hoarse laughs and bowed our heads convulsing with laughter while the audience probably marveled at how emotional we all were. Bravo, Mrs Porche! Bravo!
***I know that millions of women have faced FAR more serious battles every day. Some places, like here in the States, we women are lucky enough to have the freedom to do almost anything we think of, and if we don’t, we have the freedom to challenge that, like I did. The rest of the world needs to catch up. Women’s equality is as crucial as clean water to make a society progress.