Friday, April 12, 2013

Stage fright

We went to the 5th grade talent show last night. 
After a busy day, one that topped off a busy week, we headed up to the middle school for the show to see Lauren’s comedy act.  Dan and I settled into our seats and looked over the program…37 acts.  37!!  I was tired, and thought that I might need to ask for double parent points for this one.  Usually, such petitions are reserved for soccer games in adverse weather.  However, the rehearsal on Tuesday was over 4 hours long.  I was keeping my options open.
Actually, they called it a Variety Show, and there was quite a variety.   Naturally, there were musical acts, dancing, singing, piano…but the variety in style, the diversity in expression, it was pretty impressive.  And these were 5th graders, performing in front of a pretty big crowd, I thought.  I might have mentioned that there were 37 acts.  Some acts had more than one child…so, even if you only had the support of two family members per child (and there was a lot of support), well …you do the math. 
The opening act was a boy who sang “God Bless the USA.”   Fair warning: I cannot help but well up at Brown’s games every time that they play this song, because full grown men, many painted orange, in every ridiculous dog costume imaginable, will stand, remove their hats and place them over their hearts or wave them over head.  And many of them are half drunk.   But, even so, they are cognizant of our blessings as a nation, and the sacrifices of our servicemen.  I have frequently found a moment of poignancy, adjacent to the dawg pound.  
 So, last night, this boy’s microphone didn’t work for the first half of his number, but he sang on.  He was not too terribly flustered when a tech came out to adjust it mid-song.   I was astonished at his tenacity.  I do not know if know whether it was the song (I have a history with it, as I have mentioned) or the way that this young man marched on with his duty despite the challenges, in a song that celebrates duty and honor, but I was moved.
A couple of acts later, a friend of Lauren’s sang ‘The Climb,’ which I was unfamiliar with, but Lauren later told me was a Hannah Montana song.  (I am not that cool, and never have been).  In case you aren’t this kind of hip either, I will give you a shortcut to the chorus:   

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

I have spent quite a bit of time in the mountains lately: driving, skiing, flying…and our lives over the past year and a half have been one giant trudge…mostly uphill.  With LFS, we might just be living in smack dab in the middle of the Sierra Madres.  This young lady stumbled at one point with the words, but recovered beautifully.  I was once again moved.

Lauren did a comedy routine, and did a great job of it.  I cannot imagine getting up in front of a crowd and hoping that they laugh, but Hollywood was comfortable and confident.  In her jokes, Lauren poked fun at herself, which I consider a life skill.  Dan breathed a big sigh of relief, because we had not heard her practice in nearly a month.  She had a ball!

There were many wonderfully executed songs and dances…children showing their remarkable talents.  I enjoyed them, and marveled at the way that these kids can get up on stage, often alone, and move or sing, and do it with such confidence.  I am in awe of it.  And it is an experience that will serve them well in the future.   I am more than a little envious at their self possession.
But one thing that struck me more significantly was the fact that that there were many acts, where it was clear that one partner was more accomplished than another, rather mismatched in artistic terms.  These were partnerships based on friendship, more than on performance, girls who wanted to be with their friends and delighted in doing something fun together.  The dance might not have been perfect in technical terms, but the friendship clearly was.  And that made the dance all the more beautiful, joyful, and a pleasure to watch.

Lauren told me on the way home that one of her friends was pretty upset about a mistake that she made in her song…the one that I found so touching.  We talked about the fact that it takes courage to get up in front of all those people, and offer the gift of your performance, of your talent.  Perfection might be what you want to offer, but the real gift is your openness, your vulnerability, of being honest, even in your imperfections.  What you put out there, giving it your best…that is the real gift. 
How it is received, well, this has nothing to do with you.

I received many unexpected, and unanticipated gifts last night.  And in turn, I am inspired to offer my openness to you, in all of its imperfections.

I am clearly not smarter than any 5th grader.  I am learning from them.  All 37 acts.

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