What follows is a true story, though the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

If you have school-aged children, you are no doubt familiar with the ubiquitous "holiday pageant." When your kids are little and cute and still have that new car smell, you wind up attending many of these, and you always start out fresh and happy with a fully-charged video camera to make sure you don't. miss. a. minute.

For this couple (we'll call them the Hollies), the whole experience has dwindled over the years, killed mostly by the fact that the pageants have been held in a venue that, quite simply, has no room for all the parents still bewitched by the new car smell.

There's a wild stampede for seats, encounters with people who have clearly misplaced their Christmas spirit, it's standing room only and hot and stuffy and repetitive. The kids are trooped into the cafeteria grade by grade (the Hollie kids are always somewhere in back, behind a tall kid), mouth the words to the song along for the three kids who actually are paying attention and not daydreaming about presents, and then they march back to their classroom where they eat cookies and watch movies and play games, leaving the Hollies to be tortured in the cafeteria.

To add insult to mistletoe poisoning, one music teacher started to think he was Flo Ziegfeld and the shows got bigger and more outlandish and horror of horrors for the folks who didn't have the insufficient anger management to duke it out for a seat: longer.

That fateful year, it was the week before Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Hollie hadn't even started with the shopping yet, and while they still had their appetite for sugar cookies, they had lost their appetite for brawling with so-called friends for pageant seats.

So they took the kids, dropped them off, and then proceeded into the hot, crowded cafeteria where parents were battling it out over the seating. They were already sweating and knew they'd be standing in the back for the next hour and a half and that's when they suggested the same revolutionary, rebellious thought at the same time: "We could leave and come back and get the kids."

And that's exactly what they did. They found a bar, had a margarita, did a little shopping and then came back and got the kids.

And while you're sitting there thinking that the Hollies will be punished in the worst, most horrible ways, let me tell you that Mrs. H spent that hour in the worst possible torment, imagining that there would surely be a catastrophe at the school, that one of the kids would injure themselves on stage and everyone would expect her to run up and help them and she wouldn't be there and she'd be exposed for what she was: The Worst Mother Ever.

But they returned, with gifts safely stashed in the trunk and no one had fallen off the stage and the kids never knew where their parents were sitting anyway. The kids asked what Mom and Dad Hollie thought of the play, and they didn't lie: "This was the best pageant ever."

And it was, because it prominently featured tequila and a jewelry store.

May all your Christmas hopes come true!

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at elizabethann40@hotmail.com. Her column appears monthly.

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