Monday, December 13, 2010

My Soup-Stained Stage Star

I attended my daughter’s stage debut last week. She’s in a Lutheran preschool (more about my thoughts on that in a later post) and the preschoolers led the congregation for Advent service one evening. My Guy and I made plans to be there, even though we haven’t been inside a church since…we don’t even remember the last time. Sadly, he was held up at work that evening and had to miss the event.

Since this was my first gig as a parent to a child star performing at a church service, I didn’t know what to expect or prepare for so after work, I just showed up at her school in my work clothes like any other day and found her in her regular daycare wear thanks to her daddy who dresses her in the morning, which means I never know what to expect. That day, it was comfy pants covered in lint and a long-sleeved graphic tee. On the day of her performance. Lovely.

We dined with and met other parents and their kids prior to the service at the church basement and of course that’s when Little Miss was adamant in shoving soup in her mouth by herself, “No, no, I do it!” when I offered to carefully feed her. Of course she managed to spill chicken noodle soup and jambalaya on the front of the only shirt she had on her that day. I looked around and saw the other kids and their parents in what seemed to be their Christmas outfit, and then winced at my own work wear and her average garb with the glistening stains. Awesome.

When it came time for the service, I dropped her off at her classroom so she could congregate with her friends and teacher while I settled into my seat, waiting for the big moment. The pastor began the service and warm memories of my own church-going days many years ago flooded me. The familiarity immediately embraced me like an old friend. All awkwardness of an agnostic in a Lutheran church vanished as I remembered the prayers, ritual and songs that brought me comfort once upon a time. But the savoring didn’t last as the kids marching towards the altar broke my reverie.

I looked for Little Miss, but she was so tiny among the two to four-year-olds that I missed her in the procession. They filed in obediently in their red velvet dresses, pretty bows and pressed shirts and when they were all on stage, I finally found her. It wasn’t hard - my daughter’s the one in the soup-stained top that says SASSY in bold colors and a velour bottom with a pant leg stuck in her boot. Way to stand out kid.
See the pant leg in boot?

The two-year-olds played the mini tambourine while the older kids sang. My daughter, who loves to sing, mouthed the words as if she knew them. But then again, she probably did as they had been rehearsing this for a couple of weeks now. My heart swelled to see her “on stage”. So that’s what it’s like to be a parent in the audience. We naturally looked like the paparazzi with our phones and cameras, crowding the front of the room. I, unfortunately, only had my phone on me so I did the best I could. Again, way to be prepared mama.

At that point, my head latched on to another memory. It was of my first Christmas play. I think I was around nine and have been attending Sunday school for awhile when I became involved in a Christmas play and was cast as the innkeeper’s wife, the one who suggested to Joseph that he and Mary could stay in the stable. I wore my best dress, which was periwinkle blue with silver embroidery and ruffles, and it was incredibly uncomfortable for our year-round 85-degree heat but I didn’t mind. My mom sat among the audience and watched me utter my two lines. I may have forgotten the words, but that moment was crystallized in my mind forever.

It marked the beginning of my “drama career” in school but that occasion was especially memorable because it was probably the only time my mom had ever seen me perform. It might have been because it occurred on a Sunday and all of my other school productions were held during school hours, which were also the time she was at work. I don’t know what it’s like in Malaysia now but back then, parents’ participation in school wasn't a norm. It was more a luxury as many of us came from working class families who couldn't afford the time off to participate in something that seemed rather superfluous when compared to the food and shelter our parents worked hard to provide. It never occurred to me to mind that my folks were absent from my school productions most of the time; I guess it helped that my friends’ parents weren’t there either. We understood.

Now that I am a parent myself and can afford to be available, it was a no brainer for me to be there for Little Miss’ stage debut. When she was up there that evening, I saw my baby shining, and when she spotted me, her face lit up, so happy to recognize a familiar face in the sea of strangers and to know that the one face out there was smiling with her. At her. For her.  

 You probably can't see it from my crappy phone pic but she was smiling at me

I might be biased but I thought she did really well. After their one and only song, the two-year-olds were dismissed while the others continued leading the service. Little Miss ran to me on the center aisle, hardly able to contain her excitement: “Mommy!!!”

I knew then that I never want to miss any of her performances in the future (and from her demeanor on stage that evening, I suspected there would be many). While I was never upset at my mom’s absence in the audience, I also know, from the one time she was there, what it feels like to have someone in the audience who’s there just for you. And I want Little Miss to always have that.

I could tell that she was so proud. So, so proud. And so was I. Soup stains and all.