They left almost as quickly as they came. In a way, it almost felt cruel. Yet it was truly, truly wonderful. The tears I shed over them were worth it because I loved every minute we had together.
Irving Berlin said it best: “There’s no people like show people.” I couldn’t agree more. I’d told you, Dear Reader, about a recent show I organized and directed. I was prepared for the show.
I was unprepared for what the presence of these people ushered into my life.
Maybe it’s because I’m inching ever closer to age 50. Let’s be real, I have a lot more to see from the rear view mirror of my life than I do from the windshield. Maybe it’s due to the wreck. Statistically, I shouldn’t be alive, and so it is with that knowledge I greet every day. I firmly believe I live more in the moment. I appreciate people and opportunities far, far more than I previously did.
The performers rolled in for the show and they touched my heart. I could write entirely about what happened on stage, but it was what happened off stage which meant the most to me.
- One mother of three, who I directed in several high school musicals, brought her young children to her twenty minute rehearsal time. While the children were incredibly well-behaved, curiosity got the best of them. Soon, they too wanted to be on stage. As this young mom with the angelic voice stood there singing, she gently shepherded her children, helping them feel a part of the process, yet not letting them overshadow her rehearsal. She was a lesson in parenting balance. I sat in awe of the blessing of watching the grown-up version of her be such an amazing adult. No wonder I named my daughter after her.
- The man with whom I feel most comfortable performing on stage returned home for the show. He always worked incredibly hard and could be depended upon to know his vocals, lyrics, lines, and choreography. Thirty years later, nothing had changed. We picked right back up where we left off, but older for sure. While still dapper as always, he is beginning to gray, and of course, my fake blond hair covers my gray too. Both he and I have lived a lot of life in the last thirty years, perhaps not ending up exactly where we thought we would, but seemingly very content. It was so reassuring to reunite with my dependable, trustworthy friend.
- Young people I last knew as teenagers who are now nearing forty brought their children, and it was a joy to meet them. One man’s children sat in the second row for the show, and I quickly realized during one of the early songs, Shawn’s kids were enjoying my portrayal of the incredibly mean Lucy in the “Charlie Brown” set. I would barely move and I could hear them giggling with glee. It was all I could do to keep from smiling on stage in delight. Hearing the next generation laugh is a gift indeed. I got to hear “my kid’s” kids laugh. It made my heart so happy!
- There was the moment after our lone full-cast rehearsal. Showtime was imminent, and there were some loose ends to complete. My longtime friend stood talking with two young men whom I’d directed twenty years ago. These guys “own comedy” and I obviously value their opinion. My husband joined the group and I humbly asked all four, “What am I missing?” As the director of the show, I was open to honest feedback which would improve its quality. While the five of us discussed the performance, I was able to simultaneously step back and reflect on the four with whom I spoke. My husband, obviously in it with me for better or worse, who may not know all the ins and outs of theater, yet fiercely loves and protects me. My friend, who I hadn’t seen in twenty years, who knows a ton about theater but not a lot about the last thirty years of my life, still loving me and protecting me with his counsel. And two men who are now almost forty, who at one point had to “obey” my directions, but are now respected colleagues. I trust them and felt their love and protection too.
- And finally, a former student of mine who stayed in our basement for the weekend. It wasn’t the first time he’s lived under my roof. When he was a little boy he would often stay with me at my apartment since I lived closer to the theater where he was performing, and it was easier on his mom for me to transport him to and from rehearsals. We acknowledged that nowadays, that would be highly frowned upon. Good grief, as a teacher in 1995 I didn’t think a thing of it. And several times during the weekend he would bring up something I’d totally forgotten. “I watched my first Tony Awards at your apartment, Amy,” or “I was with you the first time I saw that actress perform.” Little things. Things I never would have remembered, yet he inadvertently reminded me I had helped lay a foundation in his life, and he is making it as an actor in New York! My heart swelled with pride.
They left almost as quickly as they came. In a way it felt almost cruel. Yet it was truly, truly wonderful. I didn’t allow myself any tears the night of the show. The moment was too special. But as my family dropped off my former student at the airport the next afternoon, we returned to our car and my own two children heard and saw their mom wipe away a few tears.
Monday night when my husband and I got into bed we both shed a few more tears. We lamented how we wished we’d had more time with all of them. We talked about each and every cast member, young or “older,” how special they are to us and how thankful we are that they’ve been a part of our lives.
Good, wonderful people are always worth it. It hurts when they leave, but it’s worth the risk to love them and watch them leave as opposed to never having known or loved them at all. In a small town in northern Indiana, I was reminded yet again of the absolute joyful gift others bring to my life. And as more than a few people told me that weekend, “You remind me of Carol Burnett,” I find it only fitting to close today’s blog with her words:
I’m so glad we had this time together.
Just to share a laugh or sing a song.
Seems we just got started and before you know it.
Comes the time for us to say, “So long.”
Until next Wednesday, Lord willing.