Someone get me some earplugs

An hour before she had to show up for the performance, Billup started gathering potential costume pieces. “I think these tights work,” she said, “in case I get a chance to perform.”

Then hastened to add: “But I probably won’t.”

Five minutes later, she asked, “Mom, do you have an undershirt I can borrow, to wear under the dress—in case I need it?” And so on, until we had white tights, a white undershirt and cute shoes tucked into a bag for her to take with. I made her brush her hair—“Just in case,” I said, playing the game.

But I wasn’t really playing: My heart bloomed with hope. Surely Billup had been given some hint by the drama teacher that she would perform after all!

When I finally realized, two minutes before the curtains opened, that she really would not be on that stage, my chest squeezed. And my heart wept.

Mostly because the play was terrible. The kids swallowed their words. The scarecrow had managed to position his mic just under his left nostril, so the people in the back row knew exactly when he was exhaling. Actors forgot their lines, while the cowardly lion remembered someone else’s line for her.

“What did you expect? They’re middle schoolers,” my husband Ted pointed out at intermission. But in the blink of an eye, I had gone from heartbroken parent to indifferent adult who realizes that this would be two hours that I would never. Get. Back.

You know how you love your kid’s first-ever school band concert, even though objectively it’s not standing ovation­–worthy art? You happily pretend that the cacophony of noise blasting at you is music, chuckle over the accidental clarinet squawks and good-humoredly endure the stifling heat of the auditorium—all because your kid is up there, blowing into his trumpet.

Turns out, when your pride and joy isn’t the one blowing into her trumpet, you know full well that what you’re experiencing is brain-melting noise, not a melodious symphony. And you want to know where the damn earplugs are.

At the same time, you realize: The girl who’s playing the Good Witch is actually pretty good.

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