Last night I went to Sam’s Winter Concert. In this neighbourhood, The kids go to a tiny (280 students) school for JK-6, then a larger school down the street for 7 and 8, then High School for the remainder. That middle school goes from JK to 8….though my kids only go there for two years. Sam is in grade 8, moving on to high school at the end of this year, and so it hit me last night as I sat there in the school gym… the aroma of desperate parent all around me….This is the last one. This is the last time that I will sit in an elementary school and wait for my kid to get up and sing or dance or do any of it. The very last time.
I sat there there knitting (oh…I’m making argyles.)
I thought about that. It turns out that I lack the mathematical facility to tell you how many of these I have been to, but I think it’s a lot. There were the years that it was just Amanda. Her up on the stage, me in the audience with a toddler and a baby, trying to juggle both of them while still waving up at my oldest. A few years later Meg joined Amanda up there, and except for the toddler I had with me, those were the really neat years. Then Amanda went on to middle school and Sam started elementary, then Amanda went on to High School, Meg was in middle school and Sam was in elementary and those my friends…those were the killer years. Three concerts per season. It was during that difficult time that Joe first began calculating how many more we had to do. While the high school band played or the middle school choir sang or the elementary school teacher tried desperately to herd grade ones in and out like unruly sheep, Joe would sum it up. “22 more!” he would whisper conspiratorially, as I tried to appreciate the somewhat melodic strains of…..well. I actually couldn’t tell what song it was, but that’s hardly the point.
Back then, with the holidays being what they are and life with kids being what it is, getting out the door to three concerts was a big deal. A very big deal. (Actually, life with three little kids being what it is, trying to get your hair brushed by lunchtime was a big deal.) We did it though. Every single one. I have heard “must be Santa” so many times in my life that I feel confident I could perform it. I have developed some sort of coping mechanism for the stunning auditory experience that is a middle school string section. (Mostly, instead of trying to listen I spend that four minutes staring at the teacher and trying to figure out how that is anyone’s job. They are Saints. Heros. Demi-gods of decency. Last night Ken said that if he taught instrumental music he would cry at work. I told him that I wouldn’t cry where the kids would see me, but I might nibble borax sticks in my office after hours. I have no idea what sort of love for children you have to have to do that, for whatever it is, I do not possess it. The squeaky squawking, bleating noise that is the sound of people learning to play instruments is far more than I could bear for six hours a day.) For fourteen years, I have (band pain aside) sat there at least once every holiday season.
(Actually, I did sort of miss one. Sam was a toddler and everyone with kids has been that mother who had to remove her kid from the gym because they threw a fit when you insisted that it was the Choir leaders turn to play the piano and they really didn’t need any help and your toddler, barely holding it together after the piano disappointment, decided the secondary activity should be lying on the floor licking the road salt off of the boots of strangers, and when you saw them doing that you threw up in your mouth a bit and then had to leave with your thrashing, wailing kid under your arm because it turns out that LITERAL boot licking is the only thing that they want to do, and when you picked them up off the floor and gently tried to distract them from that unspeakable activity, the kid had a meltdown that made a failed nuclear reactor look like a small problem, so you flee to the hall way. Then you’re there. Sitting in the hall outside the gym, listening to the concert going on without you and you think “Wow. Nobody else is in the hall with a boot licking toddler” and suddenly it hits you…this mothering thing is not going to work out because you suck and your kids a freak? I know you have had that day. My day was Tuesday December 17th, 1996. I will never forget it. )
Fourteen years. Bad music, little bands (it’s funny how much better the bands were the years my girls were in them.) choirs of angelic cherubs wandering in and out…at the time I thought it was pretty tedious. At the time…I watched the clock and wondered when it would end and sat there knitting and consulting the program eight hundred times to see how many songs there were left. At the time, the only part I liked was when my kids were on stage, when I would stand up and wave and call their name out…and then my kid would look over at me and I could tell, when they finally found me in the ocean of mums and dads, that they were both embarrassed at their dorky mum waving around knitting and beaming up at them….and that they were thrilled and proud to be on stage. (I always loved that conversation after the concert. “Did you see me? Did you see me singing?” )
Fourteen years of counting it down. Last night though…. four more.
Four more, and they are all High School Concerts. No more kindergarteners singing “Must be Santa”. No more grade fours forgetting the words to “What a wonderful world”. No more of the parents with camcorders rushing up to the stage with a tripod and a big plan. No more of that wee girl in a darling red dress who’s standing and singing in the front row – who then hikes up her skirt and scratches her bum in front of everyone. No more.
As I sat there last night waiting for my turn to stand up and wave at Sam in the choir, it turns out that I think I’m going to miss it. My kids are big now, and we’ll go to concerts where the band is pretty good, the choirs are impressive, the string players also belong to orchestras and none of the boys pick their noses in front of everybody during the last song. (Or at least if they do, you hope your daughter isn’t dating them.) I couldn’t believe it. Miss it? All these years I’ve thought that I just could not wait. That I would embrace the new phases my kids went through and I would never feel melancholy for years gone by…and suddenly, last night, sitting there on a crappy chair in that funny smelling auditorium, uncomfortable, squashed, watching a toddler (probably thinking about licking something) wander up and down the aisle, listening to the worst ever rendition of …..well. I still can’t tell what song it’s supposed to be…and I looked around and thought, wow. My kids are growing and I’ll never sit at an elementary school concert again…and then I thought the unthinkable.
I wonder if the school would let me come back….
Just to watch the grade ones.