They Know That I Am There

IMG_3740 copy

Last week began and ended with hours of kiddie concerts. My tiny ballet dancer skipped around the stage first as a Ginger Snap and then as a Chinese Tea leaf in the ballet school’s production of “The Nutcracker.” It’s a beautiful show, with music and costumes and dances that carry the audience on a snowflake cloud of sugar plum dreams.

For 120 minutes. My Ginger Snap was up there for maybe three of those minutes. And another three for the Tea the following day.

I drifted. Shifted in my uncomfortable seat. Told my sons to “ssshh” when they asked if it was over. When would it be over? I wondered the same. It was beautiful and graceful and fun to watch, but of course we were there to see her, and we were wriggly and fidgety and wished we were elsewhere.

And then we glimpsed her smiling face under the floppy gingerbread hat, and she saw us waving wildly from the audience. And she beamed. Missed a step. And beamed some more.

The end of the week found me back in an audience, again for hours. This time at the school’s annual winter concert. I jostled for a seat as near to the front as I could find, amongst bright, puffy jackets and dripping umbrellas, and parents who had the foresight to reserve the best seats much earlier than I did.

Squeezed somewhere in the middle of the middle, I waved like a wild woman when my Kindergartner took his place on the stage. He whispered in his friend’s ear, pulled funny faces and did not stand still for a minute. Despite my frantic hands in the air, he had no idea I was there. What’s the point? I wondered crossly. Resentfully, I settled into my immovable chair for the next three hours.

All the kids sang sweetly. Pounded on xylophones. Played the violin and the trumpet and even the cello with their small 10-year-old fingers. But the morning dragged in a stuffy cacophony of restless coughs and whispers.

We had all carved time away from work and errands, meetings and appointments to watch the children showcase their musical talents, but of course we were there to watch our own children. Many parents left as soon as their child had performed. They had places to be, so many things to do on that busy, wet Friday morning, the last before the holidays and no-school-till-2015. I watched them creep out, one after the other, with something like envy and disappointment. That they didn’t stay to watch my child. That I couldn’t leave.

I couldn’t leave because my son is in fifth grade, and the fifth graders performed the newly-composed school song, at the very, very, very end. I was tired, hungry and irritable. I moved seats. I chatted incessantly to the friend sitting next to me. Her son is also in fifth grade. I thought about everything else that needed my attention. I wished I were elsewhere, doing those things.

It had been almost three hours since my little one sang the snowflake song, seemingly oblivious to my presence in the audience. Now I watched my big boy take his place in the left corner of the stage. Somehow I had unknowingly found a seat on the same side as he was.

Finally, I thought, as I distractedly gazed at the sea of faces on the stage. Just a few more minutes, and I can get on with my day.

A tiny movement on the left caught my eye. I focused my attention, turned my head so slightly. My son looked straight at me. And smiled. That small, almost self-conscious smile that means he’s happy. He ducked his head for a second, and looked back up at me. I heard his thought: My mom is here. For me.

The music teacher raised his arms. The opening chords filled the almost-empty theater.

“We work hard, take care, so we all can learn and play.

We work hard, take care, with kind hearts we share,

at our school on the hill by the Bay.”

Beaming Ginger Snaps and fidgety five-year-olds and school pride in the fifth grade.

“Were you there, Mom?” the little one asked me later that day. “I didn’t see you! Were you there? Did you see me?”

I have years of performances and ceremonies, Nutcrackers and school concerts ahead of me. At times I will be restless in the uncomfortable chair. I will resent that I didn’t get there early enough and all the good seats are taken. I will wish I were somewhere else.

And then my kids will stand in front of the audience. They will scan the crowd, and catch my eye and smile a tiny smile. And they will know that I am there. For them. And for me.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “When I’m really old, I hope to look back at my life and know that I…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, and guest hosts Vidya from Vidya Sury and Kerri from Undiagnosed but Okay.