My oldest daughter made me cry in public this weekend.
I was front row, center, and caught without a tissue to save me.
Most of what I write about here centers on my life with 5-year-old Girl from the East. I don’t say much anymore about 17-year-old Girl from the West. I no longer feel comfortable blogging about the details of her life. She’s old enough to tell her own stories.
But I want to tell this story. This weekend that almost-adult daughter of mine who often tests the limits of my love and patience knocked the air out of my lungs. In a good way.
After an eight-year hiatus she walked on that stage before a full auditorium of her peers, teachers, and parents, and sang solo. I wept.
She kept the whole thing a secret, telling me only a week ahead of time that she was performing in the high school talent show. Last weekend I took her shopping for something to wear.
“Are you alone or with other people?” I ask as we slide hanger after hanger of dresses across the racks, assessing each one for potential.
“What kind of music are you using?” I prod, as we hold up shoes to the dress under consideration.
“Do we need something glittery and showy or something soft and flowing?” I say with growing annoyance.
She has not answered any of my questions. She won’t. I know it. It occurs to me that this irritating habit has some fairly obvious roots.
It also occurs to me that she didn’t really need my help picking out clothes. She wanted my emotional support. At least she seemed to heed my advice on what not to wear on stage.
After all, there are high heels and sheath dresses and then are YouTube moments waiting to happen.
She did the same thing to me eight years earlier. Made me cry. Kept me in the dark. Back then an even smaller version of this girl stood on the same stage, this time dressed in the rags of a street urchin, dirt smudged on each cheek, holding a straw broom and singing “Castle on a Cloud” in the local high school production of “Les Miserables.”
No one in our family and friends group that evening could believe the clear, sweet music flowing from this child’s vocal chords. Even though she’d been selected from a district-wide audition, we all had braced ourselves for any possible outcome, from perfect delivery to utter stage fright.
Instead, our then third-grader amazed us all with a strong voice that projected around the theater and as much confidence as the teen cast on stage.
We thought it might be the beginning of something for her. She’s been performing in public in odd ways since she was old enough to realize she could attract an audience. (Imagine a four-year-old in Borders getting up on a window sill and breaking out in song and dance while her mother paid for books.) She’s been a member of all of her school choirs, joined local choral ensembles, is a four-summer veteran of music camp, and toured Europe for a month in 2008 as part of an international choral ensemble exchange student program. She’s done all that but she has not reprised the solo since her stint as young Cosette.
I stopped asking her about solos years ago.
Last weekend, she broke her silence and I was caught crying in a crowded theater. I am not a public crier. I’m not even a private crier. But when your child does something to make you that proud, to make you really notice that she’s come into her own, ready to take on the world, it’s impossible to maintain a poker face.