I’m in second grade and I get the lead in “Little Red Riding Hood.” It’s VERY exciting. I’m proud and my parents are proud. Dad is so proud he takes over a “mom-job” and works with me on my lines. A lot. I mean, a real lot. So I’m ready.
It’s the day of the show. Dad takes the afternoon off from work and sits with Mom and my little sister in the audience. The show starts and my class is performing our little second grade hearts out. The stage is big and we’re small but we’re doing fine. Time for the big finish.
I should tell you that our version of Little Red Riding Hood is different than most. In ours, Grandma comes through her encounter with the big, bad, wolf just fine. At this point, it’s my job to open a box and hand Grandma a gift. So. I pick up the box, take off the lid, look inside. And it’s empty.
I do what any 8 year old would do in the circumstances. I panic. The stage which had already been big now looks huge. The audience looks like it’s doubled in size. I look at my teacher, Mrs. Patterson, in the wings. She assumes that I’ve forgotten my line and starts to mouth it to me.
So now I’m panicked and I’m mad because, as we’ve discussed, I know my lines. I point to the box and mouth back to her, “There’s nothing in the box!” She gestures to me to keep going. I know this won’t work but I do what I’m told. I pull nothing from the box and I hand nothing to Grandma and the play ends.
I go out to the audience and see Dad and explain what happened. He leans down and tells me to listen very carefully. He says “Gail, there’s a saying in the theater that applies just as much in life. That saying is ‘the show must go on.’ No matter what happens to you in life, I want you to remember that and just keep going.”
It’s been more than a few years since I was in that play. I’ve had a number of opportunities to remember Dad’s advice, but none as meaningful as when M and I were trying to start a family. In spite of our best efforts and the efforts of the best science of the time, it didn’t look like it was going to happen. It was hard. And it was sad. It felt like I had been handed another empty box.
But I heard my dad’s voice and we just kept going. We kept going until we landed at the doorstep of JFS of Metrowest where we met Dale and Raquel of Adoption Choices. They listened and they heard me. Their kindness helped me let go of the box. It wasn’t empty. It just wasn’t mine.
It’s hard to believe but our daughter K just turned fifteen. That dark time seems so long ago and I can barely remember the sad, empty woman I was. You see, I just have to look at K’s face, I just have to hear K’s voice to know. Yeah, I have the right box now.