He was falling out of the rhythm, out of the habit. The habit of doing what he ought, with a peaceful, trusting spirit. In a classroom of one, at the kitchen table with your mom, it’s hard to practice waiting for others around you to finish sharing their ideas or waiting patiently while the teacher checks the other students work. I wasn’t spending much worry on the atrophy of such habits, but when I saw the poster for the Spring Recital I knew we should attend.
He could sit and practice his patience, his attention. We could spend time supporting a community that had been doing so much supporting of us.
We entered the auditorium after the performance had begun and quietly grabbed two seats in the back row. We watched the individual students recitals and I cried because that is what I do when bravery is on display. Soon it was time for the first grade to perform together. As they made their way to the stage Beaudin insisted we move up into their seats, to watch from there.
‘But Beau, that’s the literal front row.’ I thought, ‘You do realize that your desire to go unnoticed will be lost completely if we go up there. You know that ever eye in the room will see us, the mythical kid with cancer who they’ve read about in the school newsletter, but never seen. Beau, we can’t go up there- it’d be so much spotlight you may as well be up on the stage.
Before I could filter my fear out enough to answer, he was moving to the front row. I followed him. In the small auditorium, the kid with cancer and his mom moved up close to listen. Front and center.
“You’ve got a friend in me. You’ve got a friend in me. When the road looks rough ahead and your miles and miles from your nice, warm bed…” The first graders began to sing.
“Ugh, mom! They sang this to me,” he whispered.
“Mom! This song! They sang it and said, ‘You’ve got a friend in me, Beaudin!’
“Ok, be quiet.”
“And they were making fun of me.”
“Where they making fun of you? Really Bubba?” I questioned.
“Yes mom, even Mr.Gray told them to sing it!”
“Oh… was it possible they were meaning to say, just that… they were your friend… just that even if you had cancer and weren’t at school… they were still your friends?”
“Mom! No. They just kept saying it. They kept saying I had a friend in them. What does that even mean?. It is so rude!”
“I don’t know Beau, I think they just love you.”
I wondered why we were here in the first row, having a conversation about the meaning of this song, a conversation that could have been so much easier to hash out where we had been sitting before.
“I want to leave.”
“Beau, we can’t leave right now, during the song.”
The last few piano notes played and Beau got up to return to back of the auditorium. Things felt heavy. He had a friend in them. And he felt embarrassed.
We went to the very back of the middle aisle, I squatted down and he rested upon my bent knees. It was heavy. His weight and the singing.
“I see trees of green, red roses too,” the classmates sang. Their tender voices cracking with the beat. Beau’s best friend, Eliza, found him in the back and locked eyes with him.
“…the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night…”
Damn. I hate this song. Right now, in this moment. I hate this song.
His best friend serenaded him with her puppy dog eyes and I began to cry the hot tears that burn as you try hard to hold them back. The air left the room, I couldn’t breath. I was trapped. He was so heavy. This was so heavy. I pushed him off of me on to the floor, directed him to stay put and all, but fell into the hallway.
“…and I think to myself…”
Why isn’t Beau on that stage. Last time we were in this room he graduated from kindergarten. And he still had hair. Blonde lockes. Why do I always think about his hair? This is so dumb. This is so fucking unfair. Why isn’t Beau singing that song about trees of green that makes me cry every fucking time I hear it. That song is terrible. I thought this would help him, but this is stupid. This is too sad. I hate this. This isn’t fair. Why is this my life, why is this his life. I fucking hate this. This is heavy. I can’t breathe.
“Mama? Whats wrong.”
“Oh…. nothing Bubba.”
“Mama? Are you crying!” He quickly grabbed my hand and pulled me to the back of the hallway and through the double doors into a stairwell. “Mama, why are you crying?”
I squatted down and looked him square in his eyes, “I’m sad Beau. I am sad you aren’t up there…. I am sad you have cancer.”
He took the balled up kleenex from my tight grip and wiped the tears from my cheek.
Oh Lord. This is so tender. Am I scarring him? Is this appropriate? But I want him to see me cry. To be strong and to cry. And how sweet, he wiped my tears. Oh, he’ll be such a good husband. I hope he doesn’t die. Damn it, is he going to die? No, he can’t die. Oh, he is just so sweet. I love him so much. This is heavy.
“Me too, mama, me too… but I don’t want to be up there. I hate performing.”
That’s my Beau.
I wrapped him up in a hug. “I know. Being up there- can you even imagine!”
“Mom, it’d be terrible!” he giggled. Both knowing that in this moment, the back row was the best place for us to be.
post script: We went back inside the auditorium and listened to the first grade finish their set. They sang the “State Song” and Beau belted along from the back row and I felt only light hearted injustice that I had been subject to hearing that damn song so many times that Jude and I both had it memorized and yet Beau didn’t get to perform it in glory under the stage lights. “AAAAAA-LAAAAAAA- Bama! Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut! (*clap* *clap*)”