First of all, 15 hour days completely suck ass. Especially when you are completely worn out, fighting a cold that won’t die, and with the specter of strep throat haunting your future.
The last thing you want to do? Go to an elementary school talent show. You’d rather have that torture guy from Game of Thrones cut off a pinkie finger or two.
But to the talent show I went. Right after putting makeup on the girl, and slapping peanut butter on bread for the both kids, because you have nothing else to eat in the house because you had pantry moths and had to throw it all out.
We got to the talent show. I saved myself a second row seat, made sure the girl went potty before it started, and took the boy to the backstage area.
Went back and found my seat. Sat through the damn PTA meeting. And then it started.
If you ever need to restore your faith in the youth of America, and in the parents that stand beside you in trying to improve things at your school, or even if you’re just having a crappy day and need a good laugh, OMG DO YOU NEED TO GO TO AN ELEMENTARY TALENT SHOW.
There were two emcees, both female, and one was dressed like Austin Powers. She was so not into the whole outfit and she told me she was only wearing it because her mother paid her ten bucks plus ice cream. She did the worst Austin Powers accent you ever heard. It was awesome. There were two best friends – one sang a . . I don’t know who did the song. It doesn’t matter, because the awesome part was her best friend getting up there with her and hula hooping the whole time her friend sang. There was a kid who did a bad ass Smooth Criminal dance. There were two acts playing guitar and singing Beatles songs. Kids singing The Beatles? It slayed me. There was a kid who did a comedy skit that bordered on offensive to little people, and I’m pretty sure he’s like the next Richard fucking Pryor. Little girls in frilly dresses played minuets on the piano; a boy played the James Bond theme song. Dressed as James Bond. There was a kid who called himself “Rollin’ Nolan,” who dressed in a disco getup, and roller-bladed on stage to the Bee Gees. There was a little 3rd grader who sang a Taylor Swift song, and almost made me cry. There were dancers galore. There were comedy troupes. There was one duo that sang some song I’ve never heard before, that sounded like some kind of Boys II Men/Rap mashup. I think one of them dropped the F-bomb. They were pretty good.
There was this little girl, who I think secretly wanted to perform, but yet she just signed up to help behind the scenes. Turns out only three kids signed up to do that. And then the organizers realized they needed someone to introduce the acts. And so they asked two of the kids to emcee. The little girl was one of them.
And she was really excited. And she must have really practiced her lines, and standing on the little stool that made her tall enough to be seen over the podium, and adjusting the microphone to her height, and her speaking into the microphone at the perfect volume. She wore a sequined, psychaedelic 60’s dress and white Go-Go boots. She loved the boots the moment she tried them on. It might have been the boots that transformed a first grader into a young lady. A poised, talented, well-spoken young stage professional. She watched every performance in between her introductions, and clapped with the music, and mouthed the words to every acts songs. She was more in her element than I have ever seen her. Every time I looked at her, she looked so very happy, and it was like looking at someone grow up in the course of an hour. I was swollen with pride. I could not contain my smile or the tears that threatened to spill over onto my face every time I looked at her.
And then the boy came on. The boy cannot sing. I knew he could not sing when he tried out. I thought for sure they would cut him. I secretly hoped they would cut him, because I didn’t think i could bear to watch my child fail so terribly at something. They did not cut anyone. There were probably three or four they could have cut, but they didn’t. He came on stage wearing a Hawaiian shirt with the collar popped, swim trunks, and flip flops. His sunglasses on his head. At home, he said he was “dressing for the weather in Istanbul.”
He looked scared. I felt sick.
The music started. And he smiled, and he began to sing.
Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night
It was shaky. It was terrible. And I was so very in awe of my smart, unsmiling, ornery, stubborn, easy-to-anger boy, who had the nerve to get up in front of a cafeteria full of his peers and their parents, and sing that song. And people clapped along with the song, as they did for all of the performers, and it didn’t really matter that he was not in tune, and he was off key, and a little out of time.
And I laughed. People know it’s your kid up there, and so naturally they also look at you, to see you watch your own kid perform. And that laugh of mine somehow turned into crying, because I was so relieved that he was okay up there, and at one point during the song, he very coolly pulled his shades down over his eyes, while nodding his head and not missing a word, and then i was laughing and crying, and the only other time I remember having that exact feeling was when I was standing at an arbor in Auburn, Alabama with my husband and I was saying my vows and i was crying and laughing all at the same time.
You know that scene at the end of the movie Parenthood? The one where Steve Martin is sitting next to Mary Steenburgen in the crowd at the school play, and she’s knocked up, and he’s lost his job, and the whole family is there and Steve Martin is watching his weird, emotional kid freak out and knock over the sets on stage, and things are in slow motion and you start to hear the sound of a wooden roller coaster in the background, and Steve Martin is laughing and crying and watching the play and riding the roller coaster all at the same time?
That was me. I was riding the roller coaster and i was proud and scared and crying and laughing all at the same time. And isn’t that what life is all about?
I was Steve Martin tonight.