Emma does CLO musical theater camp every year. She loves performing. She loves to dance. She loves to sing. She has a great presence on stage. But if you follow this blog much, you know that her track record is not spectacular when it comes to "parts" or "callbacks" or whatever. And while I love watching her on stage, I secretly also dread the chill winnowing wind of auditions and the uncertainty of her role and her mental state when those roles are selected.
There's almost this feeling that the kids who go to CLO's school get selected over the kids who just attend the camp. I can't say that's a 'for sure' thing, but I get that feeling, and it feels wrong and twists my guts at the perceived injustice of it. And when she get's Tree #3, I'm forced to do the dad thing, which is, "Be the best Tree #3 that you can be, Emma. Don't be ashamed of who you are, and what you do. Own Tree #3, BE Tree #3, make the audience remember Tree #3." Instead of what I FEEL like doing, which is calling up the people in charge and making a big stink about it because Tree #3 is beneath my daughter, and she's got way more talent than the girl you picked as the lead and blah blah blah.
This year's musical is Annie Jr. And Emma was very apprehensive about it. Not because of the auditions and possible roles, although she really wanted to get a good part, but also because most of the kids she knew from previous years had selected Mary Poppins instead of Annie Jr., and she didn't think she'd know anyone. And she didn't want to feel left out of the little cliques of kids that naturally form around those sorts of camps. Anyway...apprehensive. Stressed. Sleeping like crap.
Yesterday she got her role. She texted me:
Emma: "Guess who I got"
In the back of my mind I'm thinking...it can't be Annie. This isn't Dickens, where the good girl with the great heart overcomes adversity and not only comes out ahead, but wins it all. This is real life. Set your sights lower, Jim. The only other female role I could remember from Annie was the lady who ran the orphanage...Mrs....whatsherass. So I allowed myself to hope for Mrs. Whatsherass.
Me: "Who baby?"
I read the text and thought..."Who the fuck is Lily?" Fucking musicals...why don't I know more about musicals. I wanted to be supportive, but at the same time all I could think of was that it was someone I didn't know, so I'm thinking to myself, "Is this some orphan friend of Annie?" but I needed to congratulate her and so I googled it even as I replied.
Me: "Awesome! Are you happy??"
And at that point two things happened. The first was that Emma's picture of Lily from the old version of Annie came through via text. And the second thing was I found a link that told me who Lily was.
Me: "I'm super happy. You can do a lot with that role!" (I actually spelled it roll, but nobody needs to know that)
And this is when I wanted SO MUCH to tell Leslie. Leslie wouldn't have needed to google this shit. Leslie would have known. Leslie would have been just as anxious about the selection. Leslie's heart would have been just exactly as invested in this. Leslie would have carried along the exact same perceptions and baggage from past auditions that I would. Leslie would have been so excited for Emma. Leslie would get it. Completely. I wanted to share this with her and my heart just sort of sunk right then in my chest.
I can't let happy things turn sad just because Leslie isn't here to share them with. My happiness for Emma is unrelated to my inability to share it with Leslie. It's no less happy. It's no less awesome.
I told Emma last night that I'm proud of her every day. That getting a "good" part doesn't make me MORE proud of her. But I did tell her that it made me happy for her. That I was happy it was a part that made HER happy.
Last night while Emma took out her contacts and got ready for bed, I walked in darkness through the grass of my back yard until I stood beneath the looming corkscrew willow I once bought Leslie for Mother's Day. I stooped beneath the draped limbs and turned the light of my phone on so that I could see the ceramic butterfly Lily had helped make Leslie in school one year. Beneath the butterfly we'd buried Leslie's memorial, a glass canister with playing cards and pictures, hand made cards and mementos that were special to us and special to Leslie, or special BECAUSE of Leslie.
I hunkered down, using the phone light to direct my focus at the glazed butterfly and I talked to Leslie. I told her about Emma's part. I told her I was so happy for Emma and I knew she would have been too. Because I needed to be able to tell her. And when I finished telling her I told her to rest peacefully and that I loved her, and then I went back into the house and waited for Emma to finish getting ready for bed.
I didn't tell Emma I had talked to mommy. And I didn't suggest to Emma that SHE talk to mommy. Bringing it up seemed sad. And she was very happy. She had a good day yesterday, and I didn't want to mar it. I don't want every triumph in her life to have an implied asterisk that says, "That's awesome*" "* - if your mom was alive to see it, it would be better though". I'll talk to her about it though. I'll ask her if she still talks to mommy. It's a nice segue to discussing "how we're doing".
But certainly that will keep until tomorrow. It's only a day away.