The Shadows of a Moment



I hated waiting.
If I had one particular complaint,
it was that my life seemed composed entirely of expectation.
I expected —
an arrival, an explanation, an apology.
There had never been one,
a fact I could have accepted,
were it not true that,
just when I had got used
to the limits and dimensions of one moment,
I was expelled into the next
and made to wonder again
if any shapes hid in its shadows.

Memory is the sense of loss,
and loss pulls us after it.

~Marilynne Robinson from Housekeeping


Winter weather has a way of exacerbating loss, reminding us over and over what it is we’ve lost and still waiting for — the sun’s warmth on our cheeks, the feel of cool breezes in our hair on a sweaty day, the presence of color when numbed by the sky’s constant weeping of whites and grays.  We keep waiting for that next moment, and then the next, looking for when we may settle down and stay, however briefly, content.

We are pulled through the shadows of each emerging moment, losing what we just had to mere memory:

Last night, my husband and I attended our children’s former high school’s winter musical production, as we had done for over a decade while our three children were among the actors and actresses on stage.  I sat in the audience for two hours, emerged in the music, the singing and the dancing, the beautiful costumes and sets,  allowing each wonderful make-believe moment to carry me to the next and the next.

Only after the bows had been taken, the applause and whistles quieted, and we made our way to the lobby to greet the performers, did I realize my loss.  My memory of our children overwhelmed me:  not as they acted a role in the lights and shadows of the stage, but after the production, in the lobby as themselves, albeit costumed and overly made up, greeting grateful audience members.  But where were they last night?  Not here, I realized through my tears, not where I was so used to seeing them stand a bit apart from the crowd, smiling and laughing, waiting my turn to hug them.

Gone and moved on to other roles and other stages, far far away.

They have each left the magic and the hard work of high school musical productions into the magic and hard work of real life.
And we are left waiting for each next moment, remembering and accepting, filling and emptying,  wintering within our hearts again and again.




Teenage Drama




Most parents and teachers, and the high schoolers themselves
Would say their drama doesn’t need rehearsals or a stage
And certainly not an audience,
But every day it still flourishes.

In schools urban or rural,
From gyms to cafeterias,
Theaters to auditoriums,
In venues large and small.

Scripts reviewed and chosen, directors hired
Auditions overflow with sweaty hands, racing hearts
Shaky voices and missed dance steps,
False tears and a few real ones.

What role goes best with which actor?
Who has the work ethic, fewest tardies?
Will the onstage lovers get over
Their disagreements offstage?

The cast parts posted;
Tears flow again in joy and despair
Some cut altogether; others grateful to simply stand on stage.
The leads panic as they read the entire script.

Rehearsals begin and the pruning starts:
Do this, don’t do that, stand here, move there.
Listen! Quiet! Louder! Pay attention! Turn this way!
No coach ever controlled their players so completely.

Weeks go by as awkward adolescents transform
Into gentlemen and ladies, royalty and ruffians,
Peasants and prostitutes, priests and policemen,
Becoming something completely other.

Backstage dressing room plywood walls conceal metamorphosis
From teenager to dowager or glamour queen,
Guys and girls stand side by side at wall length mirrors
Comparing foundation, rouge and mascara.

Stage crew all in black, phantoms moving silently
Amidst the sets and props, creating scenes in shadow.
Tech crew expertly work the sound and light boards
Teaching adults how things work.

Prior to each show opening,
The cast and crew circles, holding hands to
Pray together, singing “Blest Be The Tie”~
Binding together before the stage drama begins.

The curtain rises, the audience responds, the actors connect,
Emerging backstage smiling, energized
By each round of applause, the laughter and hoots,
Confidently bluffing through occasional muffed lines and missed cues.

A story unfolds,  neatly contained in two hours,
The curtain falls, the ovations begin, then
Noisy lobby reception of bouquets and hugs,
Finally the make up and costumes come off.

Back to the world, they amble out into the night
In sweats and flip flops, with hint of residual eyeliner,
Homework still waiting, real life resumes its forward motion
But not nearly as dramatic as before.

Students discovering the curious advantage of living inside
A character of scripted lines and finite existence,
Holding an audience rapt and grateful to buy a ticket
And witness the miracle of a child growing up overnight.

lesmisbenkeelialeapimpernel1benlesmisphotos courtesy of Josh and Tim Scholten