McKenzie Yonago was not happy.
The adorable 3-year-old girl was supposed to be a Christmas star. But as the Rev. Samuel Vaughn addressed the congregation at Spokane’s Highland Park United Methodist Church Sunday morning, she decided she would rather be with her parents.
So she got up from where she was sitting with the other Christmas pageant children at the front of the church. She crossed the center aisle and squeezed into the pew where her mom and dad were. She didn’t make a commotion. But her eyes glistened with tears.
After slipping off the yellow poster-board star that McKenzie had worn over her Christmasy dress like a sign board, her mom picked her up during a moment when everyone was standing.
Noting the unmistakable meaning of the child’s reaching gesture, a man in the pew behind the Yonagos picked up the little girl’s pink stuffed bear and handed it to her.
That seemed to help.
The church choir sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Soon it seemed that McKenzie’s spirits had rallied. So just before the pageant kids sang “Away in a Manger,” her mom led her - minus the star - up to where the children were clustered, facing the congregation. The little girl still held her bear.
And as the children sang and cameras flashed, McKenzie’s dad fixed her with an “Everything will be all right” smile. She responded by having her bear wave back.
The pageant proceeded. It was called “The Perfect Christmas Gift” and featured the children talking about presents they would like to give the baby Jesus.
McKenzie maintained her composure.
A little girl dressed as a sheep reached down the front of her own dress with a motion utterly lacking self-consciousness. A nearby angel twirled a strand of hair.
A teenager read the famous Christmas passage from Luke.
Then everyone sang “Joy to the World.”
As the pageant kids filed down the center aisle just before the conclusion of the service, McKenzie’s dad held a hand out to his daughter. If she needed to, it was clear she could peel off from the exiting procession and rejoin her folks.
But she was fine now. Looking puzzled, she reached up and touched her dad’s hand. She smiled. Then McKenzie and her pink bear continued heading toward the back of the church.
, DataTimes MEMO: Being There is a weekly feature that looks at Inland Northwest gatherings.