When I was a little girl, my dad had a metal magician statue that sat on his dresser. One day he told me that this magician represented who he wishes that he could be in the lives of my brother and me. He wished that he could always magically fix things in our lives. In a lot of ways, he could. He could bandage up a skinned knee. He could help us write that tough paper. He could teach us to throw a baseball. But there were also the things that he couldn’t control. And, as he explained it, these were the things that tore him up and broke his heart. As a parent now, I understand.
Last spring, Samantha found out that her theatre company was doing the play Shrek. She immediately watched the Broadway show and fell in love with the role of Young Fiona. She learned her song, practiced it repeatedly and prepared for the audition. When she got the part, she started crying. Musical theatre is Samantha’s passion. But there’s also frequent rejection in that passion. Samantha had had her heart set on a certain part many times, and that part had always gone to someone else. This time, she got the part.
Our summer was filled with Shrek preparation. Samantha rehearsed three nights a week and all day on Saturdays and she was excited to be a part of what was going to be an amazing production. We had family and friends coming to town just to see her perform. Even Colton was getting in on the act as a telegrammer who would be performing a couple of Shrek-inspired songs before the show and intermission.
The week before the show (tech week) finally came. Tech week can be a brutal time where the actors have to stay at the theatre until late in the night. That Thursday morning before opening night, Samantha woke up and tearfully told me, “I’m not feeling well.” As she started to cough and sneeze, I realized that she could be in trouble.
She made it through the first two shows relatively unscathed, but by the beginning of her third show, her cough was in full effect and her voice was in trouble. With her big scene fast approaching, she and I sat outside the theatre trying everything to help her voice. Hot tea, honey, cough medicine, hot water and lemon, we tried it all. Every time she would try something new, she would attempt to sing her song and she couldn’t get through it. She would either start coughing or her voice would fail her. But as they say, the show must go on. We walked over to the castle that would be wheeled out so that she could sing her song. I was trying to say the right things, but the reality was that she would not be able to give her best performance, the one that she had been working so hard for. Before she was wheeled on to the stage, I quickly said, “Sweetie, are you going to be okay?” And she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “No.”
As expected, her performance wasn’t her best, but it was obvious that she was sick and the audience and her cast were extremely supportive. But her performance wasn’t the hard part for me. I hated the fact that my daughter had a problem, she needed my help and I couldn’t fix things. That helpless feeling of seeing her distraught face as she went on to the stage haunted me for days and I hated the fact that I had let her down.
I’ve been thinking about this fact for the last few weeks. This won’t be the last time that my kids will be in a situation that I can’t make better. There will be a day when Brady won’t make the team. Samantha will get her heart broken. Colton won’t get the teacher/professor that he has his heart set on. I won’t be able to fix those things and it will be good learning experiences for them to get through everything, deal with it, and come out stronger on the other end.
And even though the smart, realistic side of me knows this, I still wish that I could be that magician on my dad’s dresser.