The Choir Concert
“Is Gleek’s Mom here?”
“I just wanted to make sure that you knew the kids are supposed to be in best Sunday dress, because Gleek’s clothes are kind of casual.”
The words which came out of my mouth were “I tried to get her to dress up, but she argued.” It was a half truth. Gleek had come downstairs wearing a swingy skirt and her choir t-shirt along with a pretty purple scarf. She’d obviously chosen the clothes with care, I’d mentioned Sunday dress, but my brain was full of a dozen other things, so I hadn’t argued. I’d just hustled us out the door.
“Well there is plenty of time. So if you wanted to run home and get something…”
I nodded and said “I’ll go ask her what she wants to do” as I walked away.
The thing is that we attend our current school, not because we live in the neighborhood, but because my kids tested into the program. Running home would be a twenty minute round trip. Yes there was time. No I didn’t want to do it. I was tired. I’d spent the afternoon helping Kiki nurse an injury and evaluating whether the injury was severe enough to merit an ER visit. The following doctor’s appointment had been reassuring, but we’d returned to immediately launch into a dinner scramble and helping Gleek get ready for the concert. In the middle of all of that there was an issue with damaged calendars that Howard needed fixed so he could sketch and then there was an email telling me that my childhood best friend’s mother–my surrogate mother–was hospitalized after multiple strokes. I’d also been short on sleep every night for a week. I wasn’t just tired, I was weary in my mind and heart.
I found Gleek. She wanted me to go fetch fancier clothes because she felt out of place among the fancier dresses of the others. I’d been prepared to face down the director and stand up for my daughter’s choir t-shirt, but for my daughter I would drive home. On the way to the car I berated myself for not grabbing a dress on the way out the door. It would have been easy. Then I would not have to give up the excellent parking space which had been the reward of our early arrival. Then I could sit in the gym and work on a critique for writer’s group which would begin at my house just after the concert was over. Instead I drove carefully through the dark, aware that my fatigue and frustration might impact my driving.
I couldn’t find the shirt Gleek wanted. Instead I brought back a Christmas red shirt which turned out to be a little too big.
I went to sit in the gym. I had a good seat because I’d taken one page of the story I was critiquing, wrote Reserved on the back, and left it on the chair. During my twenty minute run, most of the seats had filled, but mine was still there. I looked up at the stage then focused on reading because I did not want to think about the last time Gleek performed on this stage. The stress and excitement of performing had triggered a panic attack. I’d spent half the show smiling at her, making “you’re okay” gestures, and pantomiming taking deep breaths. Gleek seemed to have forgotten that experience, but I had not. I worried that this concert would trigger the same response. I wondered if I was about to spend forty minutes trying to help my child manage anxiety from forty feet away. I’d intended to have a calm afternoon, a solid dinner, all carefully staged to reduce stress. Instead she’d skipped dinner, ran around in the gym before practice, and was wearing a shirt which made her feel self-conscious. There was a tap on my shoulder.
The concert was lovely. Gleek sang with all the others and while she did fiddle with her shirt and fidget with her feet, she didn’t show any other outward signs of stress. We acquired Wendy’s on the way home and headed on into the rest of the evening. The next day brought a general thank you email, in which the choir director was gracious and praised everyone who participated in the concert. She also mentioned how she would be stepping down from her director position because her step-father was dying and she needed to focus on her family. I was not the only one that evening with a head full of more things than I could possibly express. The new knowledge did not erase my frustrations of the evening before, but did increase my ability to bestow the benefit of the doubt. The director was right. Gleek would have felt awkward in her t-shirt.
Some days are difficult and there are no villains to blame.
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