Last night was the closing night of the play. The Boy and I arrived at 1:00 in the afternoon, expecting a peaceful afternoon followed by the play. Then, he would go to the cast party. I would go home. I wanted to give the Boy the ability to have fun without his mother’s shadow hovering in the distance. Most of all, I wanted to go to bed and just sleep.
1:oo, we ate. Laughed. Swarmed around pizza boxes and long lines of cakes and cupcakes and brownies and cookies.
2:00, we went outside and played frisbee, chatted. The students played the card game Capitalism. I talked with the director, my immediate supervisor. I proposed creating an after-school drama club, especially for students who want to be in theater but can’t take the class, aren’t able to do the long term commitment of a play. Who need a place to go and try out improvisational acting or want to do one act plays or want to learn about stage make-up….
Because the day before, the students mourned that with the ending of the play would end their reasons to congregate and be together. Yes, they are friends. But they all live in different parts of the county and their schedules are so saturated that it can be daunting to find time and break away from homework. They talked about how they would go home and return to binge watching Netflix or finding some other means of distracting themselves from the long stretch of hours.
I can do something about that. Even if I start taking classes next semester, I can still do something about that because the classes I am interested in taking meet at seven in the evening, not 2:30 in the afternoon.
I can do something about this. I can provide a place where students can meet and we can learn more about drama. And maybe we can do community outreach…maybe we can do more….
3:00, we went into the stage area to have what was called “cry time,” a point in which we reflected on what the last three months have been, on our favorite moments, on what the play has meant to us. At the beginning, the students insisted that the three directors sit on the edge of the stage and close our eyes. And then, they came in, humming “happy birthday” or some form of presentation music. And when we were finally invited to open our eyes, the students held Build-A-Bear boxes and flowers. And my face crinkled as I held back tears and forced myself into an expression of normalcy, or some type of normalcy because I wanted only to give my students the knowledge that I am strong. That I will always be strong for them.
Inside the Build-A-Bear boxes were, naturally, handmade teddy bears which were symbols of the students’ emotions for us. The bears were incredibly important because the main symbol of the play was a teddy bear. And the bears are naturally a symbol of love, of compassion. Within the boxes, as well, were cards signed by all of the cast and crew. Were posters for the play also signed by all of the actors. The outside of the boxes were covered in thank you message, in goodwill messages.
I was given a huge mug, a soup bowl with a handle. Signed by everyone. With messages of love. With messages of compassion.
I was broken. I was humbled. I was shattered into beautiful shards that were nimbly reconstructed because the next moment was when the students spoke to each other, to each director, to me.
And they talked about how meaningful the play was. They thanked one another for their love and compassion. They spoke of family. They spoke of kindness and how everyone reached out to everyone else.
They looked me in the eye and said words that pulled me out of my exhaustion and out of my sadness and validated my decision to start the after-school club. They showed me that my doubts I had been feeling literally the night before were unnecessary. That the very traits and characteristics about myself that I had been doubting were pointless. I had been doing all the right thing that I wanted to do. But I didn’t know how to see it.
But the students showed me. In words. In actions. In the brilliance of their tears. In the golden loveliness that is (never was) within each of them.
We cried. All of us. At one point or another, we wept. I will not share any of the stories here. They are not my stories to tell, but they are my stories to shore into my soul and hold as hard as possible to remind me of what goodness looks like.
I received three bouquets of flowers yesterday. Three bouquets with words of thanks and appreciation. Three individual moments in which I was given absolute love and I had so few words other than “thank you” which felt so pitiful when I felt the soft weight of the flowers in the crook of my arm.
“Thank you” does not begin to express any sense of my appreciation for the last three months of experiences and memories. I gave the student director a small wooden box. I gave my supervisor/director a compass and a fountain pen. He showed us where to go. But he let us find our own ways to the final point. And in the end, he helped us blaze our own trails. The pen was because he was the author of our memories, and I needed to give him something, even if it was small, that would hold all the thank you’s in one tiny place.
Last night, I cried. And this morning, as I drove my son home from my in-laws where he slept, I asked him if he had enjoyed the play. And the passion in his voice as he mentioned each person’s name, as his smile crinkled with the weight of the memories told me that I had done the right thing for him as well. The horribleness of the year’s beginning fell away and the word “worst year” was replaced by “best year.”
Wednesday, we will begin. I will write up by-laws. Will start the process of making the appropriate requests.
I will direct my first one-act play. I will learn how to do stage makeup. Will learn how to do the light and sound boards.
I will pass on my knowledge.
I will give to my students. Because I want to relive these last three months over and over and over and over.
I tried to say “no.”
Thank God, though, “No” became “Yes.”