Magic In The Air

Something magical happened last week.

Daryl was in a play. Now before you nod your head knowingly and pat my back in sympathy for having to sit through a fifth grade production of Shakespeare, let me tell you. These kids were good. I mean, they were really, really good.

The Talented and Gifted program has been putting on these productions with the fifth and sixth graders for a long time. The teachers have become experts at coaxing strong performances from inexperienced actors. They have impressive back drops. The costumes are elaborate. The kids memorize all their lines. In the original Shakespearean English.

The play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Daryl was playing the role of Oberon, the Fairy King. He was dashing and mysterious and stern. A presence on the stage. He projected loudly and clearly and spoke in a measured tone, rather than rushing his lines as so many new performers are prone to do. I couldn’t have been more proud.

But he was not the only kid on the stage. He didn’t even have the most important part. In fact, even if he had had no part at all, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this production. It was truly that good.

When Jane was in the TAG plays, very few boys participated. In fact, her fifth grade year, none of them did. Daryl’s group, on the other hand, had a full complement of boys. And they were stunning. I’ve known the boy who played Nick Bottom since he and Daryl were in Cub Scouts together several years ago. He’s a natural actor!

When Oberon and Puck charmed him into having an ass’s head and caused Titania, Queen of the Fairies, to fall in love with him, the young man hammed it up. He did such a good job of playing a pompous ass in love with himself, you almost forgot he’s barely eleven years old.

The best part – to me anyway – occurred when a scene went wrong. Puck had used the juice from the flower Oberon commanded him to use, but he had charmed the wrong person. The result was that Lysander, who had run off with Hermia, was now madly in love with Helena, who loved Demetrius. Demetrius had also been in love with (and engaged to) Hermia, but thanks to the fairies, now loved Helena too.

Helena was sure she was being mocked as Lysander and Demetrius stumbled over each other to declare their undying love to her. At one point, Lysander, enraged at Demetrius’s interference, decided to challenge him to a duel. As the two built up to that scene, something appeared to be wrong with the boy who played Lysander. He seemed increasingly agitated and upset, and not in a way that matched the script. He began to hesitate, and if we didn’t know better, we’d say he was about to cry.

And he was. He was about to cry because as the pivotal sword fight approached, the young man realized he had failed to don his sword before entering the stage. He croaked out his challenge and then thrust his hands to his face in despair. I was to learn later from Daryl that this particular actor had been very concerned about “getting it right” and here he was without his sword. It was too much for him.

That’s when the magic happened. The real stuff – not the stuff that drips out of fairy flowers. The teacher called out to use his arms. The boy playing Demetrius had his hand on his sword, ready to draw it. Then he glance at Lysander and let go of the wooden sword at his waist. He majestically drew an imaginary sword and waved it in Lysander’s direction. Lysander did the same and they had a grand air-sword fight before hurrying off the stage as the audience, picking up on what had just happened, roared their approval.

The regular, everyday magic of high-achieving and hard-working children continued through to the end, when the special stuff showed back up. As the cast members were introduced one at a time, they would walk to the center of the stage, bow or curtsy or twirl or wave, and then move to the side for the next child.

When Lysander’s name was called, he ran to the front of the stage, drew his sword, and thrust it triumphantly into the air. The raucous cheers are usually reserved for the pompous Nick Bottom and mischievous Puck, and they did get their due. But this night, little Lysander was cheered every bit as much.

His worst fear for the play had been realized and he overcame it. I didn’t even know the kid but my heart burst with pride. That pride continued when I tried to get a picture of my dear Oberon, only to have him brush me off as he went off to find Lysander and tell him what a great job he had done.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.

No, dear good Puck, you certainly have not offended and I, quite thankfully, did not slumber here. I enjoyed every moment. I enjoyed watching these dear children do grand things, both on the stage and off. I cherished watching my son and his friends take giant leaps toward maturity and confidence and grace. I was mesmerized. Thank you.

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Keeping it Together… With a Little Help From Friends

You ever have those moments when you feel like all the other parents and their kids have it together more than your family does?

Yeah, I feel like that a lot. Daryl is particularly helpful in fostering that feeling in me. Last week, I was surfing Facebook while I waited for the carhop to bring out our food at Sonic. I’m sure all the got-it-together moms were serving their kids baked chicken with fresh broccoli and a side of fruit. The family probably even said a blessing and then talked about their day as they sat around the dinner table.

But anyway, I digress. I was surfing Facebook and I saw a post from Daryl’s TAG teacher that the tryouts for the third grade play were the next day. I hadn’t heard anything about a play, so I asked Daryl about it. He glanced up from his Nintendo DS to confirm he knew about it. Then he looked up again with a panicked look on his face.

Apparently, the teachers had sent home lines that they were supposed to memorize but Daryl had lost his and forgotten to ask for another one. This started a marathon of phone calls and text messages as I scrambled to find someone with a copy of the lines.

First call went to his teacher, who didn’t have them at home with her. She checked with the other teacher while I called Daryl’s best friend’s mom. I think I might have gotten that poor boy in a bit of trouble because his parents also knew nothing about the play. Apparently Ian wasn’t interested in trying out so had failed to mention it.

Then I called another mother, who informed me that her daughter had left her copy (presumably after memorizing the lines well enough) at Applebee’s. She suggested yet another mom and gave me her number. Eventually two different moms took photos and emailed them to me. Then it was just a matter of retyping them so I could print and helping my son speed memorize right before bedtime.

That was last week. This week, about 8:00 on a busy evening, he suddenly remembered that he had a “products of the rain forest” checklist due the next day. He had somehow made it home without a copy of the checklist. I texted the two moms I knew in the class and managed to get a copy from each of them after Daryl went to bed.

I then roused him early in the morning so we could rummage through our spices and pantry and bathroom cabinets to find all the items that had components originating in the rain forest. The first thing he said when he saw the checklist was “but this is Aaron’s paper!”

Well, yes, son. When you wait until bedtime the night before, it’s highly likely that all the other kids have already filled theirs out. So if you are fortunate enough to get a copy, you’ll have to deal with his name already on it. Here’s a big fat red grease pencil. If you make your check marks with it, you’ll cover up his.

It was bad enough that I had to go begging for the checklist. What was even worse was to see the variety of fruits and vegetables that she had in her kitchen, compared to what I had. It was almost enough to make me find the whiteout so I could remove the evidence of my inadequacy.

I keep telling myself that we are all struggling to keep it together. That other families are just as messed up as ours. I’m still waiting for that text message asking for the homework assignment though. Just one would make me feel good.

A Tale of Two Tuesdays

My husband was out of town last week. Being a single mom of three kids is no easy task, even if you do have friends and family to help you out. Let me tell you how last Tuesday went.

I got up before 6:00, feeling the pressure to get all four of us out the door on time so that no one would be late to school. I dropped Jane off about 7:20 and Daryl shortly there after. As Hal and I climbed out of the truck at his school, I realized that in the chaos of leaving the house, I had not verified that he had his backpack. He did not.

I didn’t have time to drive home so I warned him to be careful and not have an accident or spill food or fall in mud because he didn’t have a change of clothes. Then I drove to work, parked, and thought about the day ahead of me. That’s when I remembered I had a presentation to make at 10:15. I glanced down at my usual attire of jeans and tennis shoes and knew it wouldn’t do.

As I pulled out of the parking lot to make the 15 minute drive home, I thought, “Well, at least I can get Hal’s backpack.” Which I did. Although I left my cell phone sitting on the shelf where I had set it while changing my pants. And then I drove right past the preschool with the backpack.

Work greeted me with a voicemail from a coworker informing me that the presentations had moved up. They were starting at 8:30. We could be on as early as 8:50 and they wanted the slides delivered by 8:00. It was 8:28 when I got the message. With a sigh, I put my yogurt back in the fridge, grabbed my presentation, and rushed off. The morning had not gone well.

My sister-in-law picked up the older two from school. I got Hal and met them at home. We had about 10 minutes before we had to head to the elementary school for Open House. At one point, I found myself standing outside the library with a third grader who desperately wanted to buy a book from the book fair, a preschooler who was trying to run off, and a tween telling me that her volleyball coach said she had to have her knee pads at practice, which she had left at home.

I was texting the coach, explaining that she would be very late if we had to go back for the knee pads, when the phone rang. I answered it and found myself talking to the lovely woman that watches Hal while we practice bells. She was trying to coordinate an alternate plan for the next night when another call came in. It was my sister-in-law, who had arrived at the school and wanted to know where I was. I rushed directions without saying hello, told the church lady I’d call her later, sent Daryl into the book fair, told Jane to grab Hal, finished the text, and then tried to take a deep breath as I grew a few more grey hairs.

I would later leave the school to drop Jane off at volleyball practice without saying goodbye to my sister-in-law who was still looking for me. So then we met at my house, where I brought home Sonic hamburgers for dinner. When we finished eating, I had to load the boys up so we could pick Jane up from practice. By the time we got back home, it was past bedtime, no one had practiced their violas or taken showers, and I was exhausted.

Let’s just say that Tuesday was representative of the week as a whole.

This Tuesday, I woke up sometime after 6:00 and rolled over to cuddle with my husband through a couple rounds of snooze on the alarm clock. I padded around in my pajamas and played with the kids as they got ready for school. Sometime after they left with dad, I got in the shower. A lazy and relaxed start to the day.

After work, I met Jane and my husband at the school for TAG Open House. I stayed to look around with Jane while Daddy picked up Hal from the preschool and then Daryl from an after-school activity. Then I dropped Jane off at volleyball and, again, picked up Sonic for dinner. (Their hamburgers are half-priced on Tuesdays. We cook veggies at home for the sides.)

We ate and took care of a few things before my husband headed into town to get Jane. I tried to get the boys to take care of their chores. When my husband got home, I gave Hal a bath while he conducted Daryl’s viola practice. Everyone was tucked into bed sometime fairly close to their bedtime. I don’t feel exhausted.

The difference between the two days is remarkable. The evenings were about the same in complexity yet I grew no new grey hairs tonight. There is nothing, in my mind, dishonorable about being a single parent. But this right here was a vivid illustration on the value of a two-parent household. Being able to share the load again has me skipping with joy. Welcome home, honey! I am so glad you are here.