The young parents were us once, and the kids up there were ours, and twenty years later, it felt odd to be sitting there. The play was charming, the children delightful, the audience appreciative. Afterwards, bouquets were bestowed and pictures taken, and grown-ups stood outside and socialized while the kids ran around with that boundless kind of energy they have, and that same old magic was in the air. It’s a beautiful little school nestled in a rural community of ranches and farms, and I was long ago a teacher there as well as a mother of a student, and this is still my neighborhood. But now I am observer, not participant.
It’s impossible not to feel wistful, and oh, I certainly did. What we must not succumb to, however, is the sinking sense of being irrelevant, basically old and over. We had our turn, after all, and it’s time to step aside gracefully. It isn’t entirely negative, either; with invisibility there comes a kind of freedom, and there’s time at last to ponder what it meant. But it takes finesse to navigate.
It was comforting to have an impromptu dinner with old friends afterwards (and at least two glasses of wine) to remember and laugh…and look forward. Before we step aside, we resolved, let’s try to pass along what we’ve learned. We’re the elders now. We’ll find ways to mentor and contribute and constructively care.
But here’s a pathetic confession: when our friends went home, we watched a few old videos of a funny little girl that used to live with us. She danced in our living room, did homework at this table, rode her horse in the hills. She and her friends performed on that very stage more than once before moving on to other venues and interesting lives of their own. (Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example…”For never anything can be amiss when simpleness and duty tender it”… and it was a mild and starry June night, and by chance there was a rocket launch from Vandenburg, and it seemed we were all a bit tipsy with wonder that evening, and we lingered outside in a state of enchantment, not at all eager to leave.)
Forgive me, but I still can’t grasp how everything happened so fast.