Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Valentine's Day party and Talent Show '07

The Valentine's Day party at Stacey's school this year was perhaps the single best run school event I've ever attended. A very type-A personality mom organized everything, reserved the gym to let the kids run off some energy, and thought up games and puzzles for the kids to play. A few of the parents, myself included, were left with very little to do. I managed to help set up some games, haul heavy stuff, and pass out goodies in the rooms. I imagine it's sort of funny to see me, 6'5" and 260 pounds, weave in and out of desks in a crowded room full of hyper kids without flattening anyone -- the years working in a kitchen full of gossiping teenagers gives me an edge. I felt like a fifth wheel for the majority of the party, but it was still nice to be there with Stacey, and at least somewhat engaged with the kids, students, and the moms. Oh! There was another dad there for a change!

This year's talent show had some hardships for Stacey, but it was ultimately a success. First, Stacey was out of singing lessons for about 6 months, and had 6 more months of tween defiance in her when we started lessons again. At one point the voice coach got upset with her because of what she perceived as smugness and questioning the quality of the choreography. An upset thespian is a strange sight to see, but fortunately she and Stacey were able to heal their little rift. My advice to Stacey consisted of the usual: trust the teacher, pay attention more, mouth off less.

In addition to that, Stacey wasn't invited to any group acts with her friends (and conversely didn't ask any of her friends to team up). Seeing kids at school in Stacey's grade that are fast friends and watching Stacey be on the periphery, not being outright rejected, but not being embraced, really makes my heart sink. Stacey herself doesn't seem unhappy with the situation, and I think her habit of embracing everyone and avoiding playing favorites keeps her out of the popular "cliques", a fact I'm OK with. I just easily slip into seeing it through my own school experiences, always the outsider, moving from town to town several times until High School, and I don't want Stacey to have to go through that. On the other hand: 14. 14 friends have spent the night with her over the last few years. Even though I get emotional about Stacey not being invited to do a group act like some of the other girls in her Girl Scouts troop, she does just fine by herself. And she loves too many people to have them all up on stage with her.

Another wrench in the works was really more of an opportunity. While she was busy retraining her voice and getting a crash-course on her act, she was offered a solo in the finale by the show coordinators. They still feel bad about the "Annie" incident from two years ago where Stacey showed her stage presence and confidence by continuing on with her act after her music died, and since this is the last year she's in elementary school, they offered her a special bonus. And when I say "a solo in the finale", I mean conducting the finale in its entirety.

Stacey was given a show tune, "Before the Parade Passes By" from "Hello, Dolly!", to perform, where she would sing alone on stage while the rest of the acts would come out on stage and take their final bows. When I found out what the finale was going to look like, I was shocked. There was a lot more work Stacey had to do, with only a few weeks to practice, but she pulled it off, and with class. What a hard worker she is, with all the imagined invulnerability of youth on her side.

At the show, her solo act, Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat (coincidentally my favorite childhood song), went off without a hitch, to a smattering of polite applause. When the next act, a group of popular girls, was introduced, thunderous applause and squeals from the group's hangers-on was an order of magnitude louder and more enthusiastic. It was a very Donny Darko moment, as if she were dancing the autumn angel act before Sparkle Motion came on.

The finale was a different animal, though. Stacey was beautiful in her formal dress and make-up, full of poise, singing in a voice stronger and surer than her 10 years should allow. She sang a few measures of the song quietly, in tune, with nary a quaver, and then the curtain was raised. Each act would come out and bow, to the applause of parents and shrieks of groupies, and as Stacey's voice threatened to be drowned out, she would smile and sing just a little bit louder...

With the rest of them, with the best of them
I can hold my head up high
For I've got a goal again, I've got a drive again
I wanna feel my heart coming alive again

This pattern continued, and was almost a fight between little girls hooting for their friends and Stacey keeping her song above the distraction, until she was damned near bellowing...

When the whistles blow, and the cymbals crash
And the sparklers light up the sky
I'm gonna raise the roof, I'm gonna carry on
Give me an old trombone, give me an old baton
Before the parade passes by

And raise the roof and carry on she did. It was beautiful. When it was time to leave, we were stopped several times by adults heaping copious praise on Stacey on how strong and "grown up" her voice was, and how pretty she looked, future greatness, etc., etc. Instead of the typical "that's mah girl" proud daddy reply, to the moms and dads I'm close to I gave an honest reply of variations on "I knew she was good, but I didn't know she could do that. I'm just as stunned as you are."

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