Rollie was in his first grade musical last week. Okay, I don’t like to brag, but he was the lead in the first grade musical.
I know what you’re thinking. . . where did that come from? He didn’t get that from his mama, that’s for sure. And you’re right. His teacher told me she wanted to challenge him. He had to memorize a lot of lines for the thing. I think it had little to do with stage presence, dreams of being a star, or singing ability. I think it just probably had to do with height and ability to read well.
In truth, when i found out he was the lead, my first reaction was, “oh, GAWD.” I hate musicals, drama, etc. I mean, I’ll go see Shakespeare, but I have never been a theatrical person, had any desire or aspirations to act or dance or sing. I have a terrible voice. I am not creative. I think musicals, for the most part, are stupid. Sorry, Glee fans.
I had people come up to me and say, “Hey, Rollie is THE BEAR! Congratulations! and then look at me, as if ready to gauge my reaction. (At first, my reaction was, “So?” Because I hadn’t read that sheet that comes home with instructions on how to dress your child for the play, and with the lines and parts. So I didn’t really know that the bear was, like, a big deal.)
I have to admit, when my kid is chosen for a role like this, sometimes I sense a bit of jealousy. It sounds crazy, and maybe it is my imagination, but in a way, a role like this is LOST on someone like me. It is ironic, then, that my son is chosen for the lead on something like this. I could care less. But there are moms out there who would LOVE to do this thing, who would make a beautiful costume for their kid, and go through trial runs of makeup, and sew, for fuck’s sake. I am not that mom.
All that being said, when his teacher framed it as “challenging him” i was glad that she did it. he had to work hard to memorize his lines, and I had to get out of my comfort zone just to watch him in the performance, so i guess it was challenging all around. And working up to the day of the play, i became increasingly nervous for him. He is so smart and charming, when he wants to be. And when he doesn’t. . . well, he is going to be the person he wants to be. To the point where I could have seen him saying, five minutes before the play, “I don’t feel like being the bear.” Or, “I’m not wearing the ears.” Or just having a meltdown and kicking things and crying. I was a nervous wreck, and mostly just trying to be upbeat and excited, to mirror excitement for him.
And it seemed to work. Todd and I were in the crowd, with his parents, my parents, my sister, Dash, and Tiller. The lights went down and the whole thing went off without a hitch. (Well, there was some kind of whispered squabble for a second, between him and the owl, but it passed quickly and nearly imperceptibly.) All of the animals made it up and back down the mountain in one piece. Dash clapped with glee throughout the whole thing. The cast sang in sweet unison, and hugged and held hands, and I marveled at the sight of these kids I know in real life becoming their animal and embracing their parts, even if they just had one line, and making them their own.
And after, when the bear and the other animals were taking their bow, i was proud. And I thought, huh, maybe I DO like musicals.
One other thing I forgot to mention, which falls under the “family lore” category. Growing up, when my sister and i were young teens, and allowed to watch things like PG 13 movies, we often watched movies as a family. For some reason, my father, completely uncomfortable with the blossoming womanhood of his two daughters, would sing, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” at the top of his voice during sex scenes in movies. To this day, i cannot separate the song “The bear went over the mountain” from thoughts of my father making last ditch attempts at shielding his innocent daughters from the likes of Tom Cruise getting it on with Kelley McGillis in Top Gun. It cracks me up to this day.