A Backstage Kind of Grace

Our little guy, Cooter, who isn’t so little anymore as he is now exactly two months shy of turning eleven, performed in his acting troupe’s version of “Trolls” this past weekend.  The role of Branch suited him well, as he griped and stomped and put on his unhappy face throughout rehearsals over the past few months.

Friday night was showtime.  He was ready.  He’s not been feeling one hundred percent, as the upper respiratory stuff that has everyone sniffling or hacking got a hold of him too.  But he was feeling good Friday.  We ran lines, and he practiced his dances wearing his Falcons helmet and jersey (a sight to see, trust me on this), and then we were off to the theater.

After the young people of Acting for the Almighty gathered backstage and got in costume, excited and a little anxious, the lights went down and Scene One began.  Cooter had several lines in this scene…..and within the first few minutes, it was time for him to deliver his line and be interrupted.  Which he did and he was.

And then it came time for him to finish what he’d been interrupted trying to say…..

and he jumped to the next page of lines, skipping the lines of several characters.

It only took a split second and the rest of these young actors jumped right in and carried on, finished the scene, and moved on to give a great performance.

But my stomach was in my throat.  Or my heart was in my stomach.  You get what I’m trying to say.

I was sick.  For my little guy.  For the children who hadn’t gotten to say their lines.  For the director and the playwright.

Oh me.

I had friends and family there who hadn’t been to rehearsals or memorized parts of the play from going over lines for three months.  They said they had no idea that lines had been missed.  Which I was thankful for, but I knew.  So did his fellow players.

At intermission one of the volunteers came out to reassure me that he was fine.  She said he took the hit for messing up and giving the wrong line, but “you saw him come out in the third scene.  He put himself back together.  He’s fine.”

The rest of the play went extremely well.  And it was a great performance.  I’m so proud of each one of the children, who bravely did what so many of us would be terrified to do.  Got up on that stage under the bright lights with at least 200 folks watching–spoke loudly lines they had memorized, danced, and sang.  They are our future, and things look really, really good for all of us.

That night Cooter and I talked a bit about the play, and he promised we could run lines the next morning before Saturday afternoon’s performance.  Before he went to sleep, he told me, “Everyone was so nice about me messing up.  They told me it was okay, that I’d go back out there and get it next time.  And I did!”

Bless.  Them.  Whoever “they” were–thank you.  Thank you for not getting upset with him.  This Mama’s heart is so grateful.

On Saturday morning when he got up, he had breakfast and then was puttering around.  I’d forbidden his standard rough and tumble football free for all in the front yard–I did not want him missing his last performance for ANY reason.  That and I’m a worrier, so he played with his friends and their Matchbox car village and did other indoor things on this cold day.  When he came back in and we were getting ready to go back to the theater, he and I had a quiet moment.

“Mama, you know what I’ve learned from this production?”

“What, buddy?”

“Improvisation.”

“Ummm, yeah?  Really?”

“Yes ma’am. Because when someone forgets a line or messes up, you can improvise and carry on. That’s what we did last night when anyone forgot a line…..like I did.”

Well, bless it.

I think that’s kind of what we need to know how to do in this life in general, isn’t it?  Improvise.  Goodness knows we seem to do a lot of it around here.

And, as the Fella says sometimes, we are none the worse for wear for it.

If improvisation were the only thing Cooter carried away from this experience, I’d be thrilled. Ecstatic.

But you know what? It wasn’t.

He learned a lot about grace too.  The way folks were understanding, encouraging, and supportive in the face of his mistake…..

that’s a beautiful gift.

And because of it, he wasn’t afraid of trying again.  Afraid, wondering what it would be like if he messed up again.  Because of that grace, he was able to get back up on that stage Saturday, try it again and do a fantastic job.  (If you’ll forgive this Mama for saying so–actually they ALL did a brilliant job on Saturday.  I am so proud of each one of them!)

I want my son–my children–all of the children–always to know what grace feels like.  So much so that they feel it in abundance and share it with anyone who could use it.  Grace gives folks the courage to try again.  To get up and out there just one more time and not so afraid of making the mistakes that are inevitably going to come in this life.

When Cooter was a baby and baptized, I chose a song for him.  It was Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” and there was a line that I love so much…..

May “you find God’s grace in every mistake and give more than you take…..”

Tonight I am thankful for the ones who spent every week teaching my little guy and all his fellow actors about drama and singing and dancing and grace and being supportive of each other and how to improvise.  His acting may never be anything more than something he loves to do for fun–I have no idea where he’s headed with this…..but sharing grace and how to encourage others, how to courage on, and how to figure out at the drop of a hat what to do next in the face of the unexpected–all things that these wonderful folks have taught him…..

that they showed and shared with him God’s grace in his mistake…..

well, my heart is full to bustin’, y’all.  This is the really good stuff of life.

May we all be so kind and abundantly filled with grace to share.  And may we all have others around us who jump to wherever we are and help us carry on when the unexpected happens and we aren’t sure what line comes next…..

Love to all.

 

drama masks 2

 

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*****For those who may not know, Cooter is the nickname that my Daddy, his Cap, gave him years ago when he was very small and loved playing Matchbox cars with Cap.  The name came from the mechanic on “Dukes of Hazzard,” which still makes me laugh.  No one really uses that name for him anymore, but I use it here to remember the man who let my little 4 year old guy drive those little cars around and around on his hospital bed.  “Daddy, you can tell him to stop,” I said, after Cooter had circled his bed for about the umpteenth time.  Round and round the bedrail, the foot rail and above Daddy’s head he went.  “He’s not bothering me,” Daddy said. And he meant it.  I’ll treasure that memory for always.  I know Daddy would have loved this play so much, especially when the children all sang “True Colors” together.  It was one of his favorite songs.  And so now it’s mine.

 

 

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Car Trouble

“You got a car, you got car trouble.”

I think it was my Papa who first said that.  But I heard my Daddy say it many, many times over the years.  Usually followed by that sigh of his.  And the acceptance of the inevitable.

And it’s the truth, isn’t it?  Eventually, something will go wrong.  And it’s rarely when you’ve planned for it ahead of time.

This afternoon, following an appointment, the littles and I went to the big craft store to pick up some gift bags and other small things for holiday festivity’ing.  We left in good spirits and headed out into the misting rain and a nip in the air that hadn’t been quite as chilling when we walked into the store.  We got to the vehicle, unlocked it, loaded up, and were ready to head out.  Only the vehicle wasn’t.  I turned the key.  All kinds of blinking lights on the dash and distressing sounds and then…..nothing.

Well, that’s new.

Actually, it was new to this vehicle. But not new to me.

My Daddy knew his way around a vehicle.  He had to, considering we never owned a brand new vehicle.  He could usually diagnose and often fix what ailed a vehicle.  And when he couldn’t he knew a good mechanic whom he trusted.  “I’m bringing it over, so I reckon you can make your next payment on your car,” he’d tell the mechanic.  It usually was something significant if Daddy took it to the mechanic.

In that moment of realizing we were stranded, I became a sixteen year old girl again.  Needing my Daddy to come fix things.  Everything.

And the feeling of missing him was so overwhelming.

Not just for fixing my vehicle, but for fixing me.  He knew how to calm me down.

I used to joke that when things went awry, I did what all good southern girls do, I called my Daddy.  This grief of not being able to do so was not a six year old grief–suddenly it was raw and new.  All over again.

Unable to fix it myself or call my Daddy, I did the next best thing.  I called the Fella, who did what needed to be done to get to us as soon as possible.

Which he did.  But being he was finishing up work and we were all the way across town, it took a little bit.

I took the littles back in the store so we wouldn’t be sitting in a cold vehicle.  We window shopped and then went back to the vehicle when he texted that he’d be there in a few minutes.

Two things went wrong.  First, it hadn’t occurred to me until we were walking out in the parking lot that I have electric locks.  ELECTRIC.  Battery needed.  UGH.  Also I have one of these weird keys now that isn’t really a key so no way it’s going to unlock a door the old-fashioned way.  I looked it over and over as the cold set in and I started shivering, again regretting that I hadn’t gone back in the house when we’d set out and gotten a jacket.  I saw a little piece that could slide from one side to the other.  I figured it was the key (pun intended) to solving my problem, but none of us could figure out how to free the key that I was certain was hidden inside.  I even texted my law student, who is studying for first semester finals (all the good thoughts needed, by the way), who assured me that yes, sliding that thing would reveal the key.  Ummm, okay, sure.  But no.

That was when our Fella pulled up.  Before I could tell him that the slide thingy wasn’t working, he had a key revealed and was unlocking my door.  Okay then.

The rest of the story is long and wears me out thinking about it again–two different jumpstarts, a stalled vehicle in the middle of the road, Leroy bringing tools from his house (which was closer) so he and the Fella could install a new battery, having the alternator checked and cleared, and two hours later…..I was on my way home in my vehicle.

The littles had stayed in the truck with their Daddy, so I had the rare moment of driving by myself.  I belted out music from Cooter’s program that I had enjoyed so much, and I sang, and then a sad one came on, and I realized I was finally just then defrosting, and I bawled at a stop light because Daddy and…..I just miss him.

It was beginning to get dark as we finally headed back home.  Not even 6 pm.  (Whoever’s idea this getting dark early is, you are off my birthday list!) It wasn’t dark dark, but the light was dimming.  I knew my vehicle was running–I was driving it for goodness’ sake, but I had this fear that my headlights weren’t on.  It wasn’t dark enough for me to tell if they were yet, but I knew they needed to be on so others could see me.

Good gravy.  So much to worry over in this life, isn’t there?

It occurred to me as I searched for signs that my lights were on (besides the light on my dash indicating such–it’s been telling me my brake is on for the past several months–sorry–NOT) that this is how it is when things take a turn we weren’t expecting.  When things start to go south, we don’t know, we can’t see that our own light is there.  That we are still shining out for others to see.  We doubt that we are doing any good.  Sometimes it takes pure darkness setting in before we realize that our lights are indeed still shining.

And by then we’re so tired from worrying over it all.

Friends, your lights are shining.  I see them.  If you doubt it, come sit by me, and I’ll hold your hand and tell you stories about the laughter and joy and light that was and will be again.  And I’ll tell you how your light has blessed me.  Encouraged me.  How your light has been what I focused on through the tears, as I cried through the grief and sadness and pain.

Your light is a gift to this world.  And even when you can’t see it, the rest of us can.

May it shine forevermore.

But if your battery ever needs recharging I wish for you to have someone–a Daddy, a Fella, a friend, a sister, a Leroy,  a stranger–there to help bring it back to its beautiful brilliance.

Shine on, friends, it won’t be long and the days will be lighter and brighter again.

Love to all.

headlights in the dark
By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (Route 52 Snow Storm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons