Well after months of preparation Henry's elementary school production is now a moment for the history books. The "Mousical" was staged three times, once for the littler ones, yesterday afternoon for the 3rd-5th graders and last night for all of the obnoxious parents, grandparents, siblings, and neighbors. In what I can only describe as a true stroke of genius the mastermind of the event, Mr. Scheuer, raised the house lights and said to the audience,"Let's just get it out of the way-this is your turn to wave at your kids and let them wave at you."
So we all got a little goofy and then the play began. As far as I'm concerned it could have been Hamlet at the Globe for all the sincerity the kids and their teachers poured into the production. This being his last year in the school I found myself becoming very emotional watching these "big kids" perform, sweating in felt mouse ears under the hot lights, trying not to fidget or play with their tails. The performance was not perfect-but it was exquisite in its imperfections. There were missed lines, stumbled over words, North Carolina British accents that came and went with the imaginary tide, and an errant double decker bus.
It was simply divine.
I told Henry after the play that I was so proud of him, not because of his performance, which was delightful, but because of his courage. This week he had a hard time going to sleep on two nights and fretted over the possibility of forgetting his lines or missing his cues. On the nights where he climbed into our bed Bob and I reinforced to him that everyone gets nervous before a performance. Actors on Broadway, surgeons in the O.R., me before I start a new patient in the clinic. Those nerves are a part of life and so many people miss out on life because they are too scared to get on their own stage.
I told Henry I was proud of his performance, but that his courage was what I admired most, because I knew he was scared to get up there at 11 years old in front of the whole school wearing mouse ears and a British policeman's cap, but he did it anyway. And that kind of courage makes all the difference between a life well lived and a life of "what if?"
When Henry's father died I was 31 and a college drop out who hadn't managed to drop back in. I was scared, sad, angry, overwhelmed and grief stricken, but I knew then that this was my only chance to go back to school and become a nurse. So I reapplied and come August I was sitting in the front row of Anatomy and Physiology.
Over and over again people told me,"I just don't know how you do it." "You're amazing." Frankly, it was a huge source of annoyance to me, because I didn't think I had a choice. In retrospect I can see that what they admired wasn't me going back to school or becoming a nurse or caring for the boys. They admired my courage in the face of what seemed unimaginable to bear. They admired the fact that I was still getting up in the morning and for many I think that alone would have been enough for me to accomplish.
I look back now on days where I am tired or the boys are being miserable little beasts and I think how far we've come, literally and figuratively, and I'm grateful for the grace to keeping getting up on the stage of life, alone or as an ensemble cast of characters. I don't want to miss my chance to steal the show.