I am crying in my car as I drive to work. For me, this is not so unusual. My car is a roving cocoon where I ruminate, dream, and work through conflicts via inner enactments. I nudge or shove myself to tears with poignant reminiscence or imaginative pursuit of fears and worries to their full, dramatic, gut-wrenching finales. I fuel whatever mood takes me, such that often I arrive in the school parking lot with make-up smeared and lips twisted in an effort to quell sobs.
Often the cause lies with music. By radio or CD, the morning’s selection can tease out a memory with its full sensory accompaniment. A little Loggins and Messina can spin me back to the seventies, to my bedroom at #638, to the pale blue bedspread with multi-colored flowers, the clatter of Mom making dinner in the kitchen below, the window open to soft summer air, and my own nasal voice, filled with yearning for my new boyfriend, Dave, as I sing along with “Till the Ends Meet.”
Today, however, the brass section blared “Seventy-Six Trombones” when I started the car for the drive to Southport. It was sunny and warm enough to roll down the windows, let the breeze take my hair, and invite every passerby to March! March! March! with Professor Hill’s boys’ band. I was smiling and tapping my foot, but one song led to another and, of course, “The Music Man” is not solely music, it’s a story, just like every day of my life, of anyone’s life. I’d grinned through “The Sadder But Wiser Girl,” started to tear up when the Buffalo Bills crooned “Good-Night Ladies,” and knew I was gone, pathetic, when I had to bite my lip to keep from sobbing when Winthrop lisped his way through “Gary, Indiana.” Oh please, Lea, there is not a word, not a note of that song that warrants tears.
But here I am weeping as I drive down Hillside Road because my own story line inter-weaves with that of Harold Hill and his librarian: this weekend, my nephew Campbell is playing the role of River City’s pompous Mayor Schinn in the Shipley School production of “The Music Man,” and I cannot be there.
While I organize clipboards and review the benefit schedule, ponder placement of jewelry and action figures for the live auction, the lights will dim in Shipley’s theater as nervous eighth graders take their positions behind the curtain for the Saturday matinee.
I have not been totally deprived. Last weekend, I returned to my childhood home to attend my 40th Shipley reunion. Rehearsals for the play were in their final days, so in between receptions and dinner with the women who were my friends from kindergarten to ninth grade, I snuck into the darkened theater to catch a few acts. Again, there is nothing to warrant weeping in this show, yet I smiled and wept throughout – at the talent and youth onstage, Campbell’s perfectly irascible performance, the innocence of the storyline, and at memories of being in my daughter Casey’s audience throughout her school years.
I was born to be a mom seated in the darkness of a student production; there are few places where I feel as blissfully engaged, euphoric and sad – all at the right moments in the plot. Through our membership in Casey’s fan club, Dave (now my husband) and I learned the responsibility of being a good audience; the importance of laughing at funny lines and clapping wildly at memorable scenes. The kids feed off that energy and it was our joy to provide it.
Campbell will have a full complement of cheerleaders as his parents, my sister and brother-in-law, will be at the show, as will my other sister and my mother and father. The whole family. I want to be there with them in one of the folding seats in the dark to beam and cry and applaud.
I pull into the parking lot, emotionally tossed from high spirits to wistful tears and back up again as the reprise of “Seventy-Six Trombones” spins twirling batons, the clash of cymbals and high-stepping majorettes through my mind. I check the mirror for tell-tale smudges of midnight blue eye-liner, make the necessary touch-ups, take a deep breath, and head into the school.