Elementary School Holiday Show:
One parent’s quest to find the perfect seat.
Sure. I could have gotten a front-row seat by bidding in the online auction. My wife does that. For the afternoon show. But for me. That doesn’t satisfy. Especially for the most challenging seats of the day, the morning show.
It never will.
The elusive stage-right, front-three-row-aisle seat is what I seek for this holiday spectacular. But that prize must come by the gifts God has bestowed upon me.
Not by the weight of my wallet.
Like all paths to success, this one begins with proper time management, cunning, a dash of charm, and on occasion, a lawn chair.
I start the day by breaking the pattern, and parking somewhere different. This throws my 8-year-0ld daughter, Skylar, off a bit, but she knows what’s at stake. This is not her first rodeo with dad.
I walk her inside school and reflexively take her picture with friends. It’s all part of the dance, the conspicuous misdirect to the other parents vying for the same seats. I appear to have my guard down letting them assume my eye is off the prize. Next year, I might have to mix it up more. To keep parents off my scent.
But the girls are looking at me while I am looking at them. And they see something I don’t show anyone else. They see the clear expression behind my iphone. They know. I can’t hide the determination in my eyes, maybe someday I can. But today is today, and I must account for my poker-face weakness as well as my strategic strength.
So I throw up smokescreens, like taking pictures before getting in line to compensate, to feign weakness. I must never make eye contact with the competition. That would be unwise and may land me in the back row. Or worse, standing.
When I arrive 50 minutes early, the line is just beginning. But soon stretches around the block. I firmly hold my position a dozen in, not being distracted by the baked goods table or idle chatter about holiday plans.
Some may call 12th place in line a failure. Others, a victory.
But I claim neither.
Much can happen in that 20 feet to the auditorium door. So I continue focus. I don’t need to be the first in line. I just need that elusive stage-right, front-three-row-aisle seat. Twelve in will get me there. The plan is working, but far from over.
But to use a sport’s analogy, I’m merely in good field-goal position. It is not yet a ball kicked firmly between the uprights, adding three to the scoreboard. That is victory, and it happens when I put my ass in that hard wooden seat, unzip my monopod and select a strategy between film/stills prime lenses and reading glasses.
It’s getting close when the aide comes with the sandwich-board sign discouraging food, drink and strollers from the auditorium. I will have none of these suburban accouterments. They are caffeinated distractions.
Inside, I will nourish myself with accomplishment, not Starbucks.
The doors open and I feel my chest ignite. I feel flush. Almost dizzy. But I push through my lizard brain’s sensations and breathe. I feel gloriously alive and that fortitude will propel me to the finish line.
I ready my makeshift squad. Outside, we are an alliance. Inside, all bets are off. But that’s what we all signed up for. Words are not needed when an expression will do the job.
One begins to talk, and a darting look reminds her there will be none of that. Not now. We have come too far. The big guy boxes out, again with the sport’s metaphor, shielding others behind us from taking pass, a natural advantage of a meandering line. It is his last year on this pilgrimage, but I can reflect on that loss later. Now, we must move.
We go inside and say goodbye, again with our eyes. Like I said, some of us will meet again next year in this same place, with the same unspoken words and necessary rules. Others, are moving on. To new auditoriums, new days.
But not me. I am here, and will soon begin preparations for next year. I need to be ready for anything. Days before next year’s performance my daughter may say she is stage left, which will require a whole new strategy.
Or God forbid, she may be center stage.
But I must take it one day at a time, and rest to enjoy the accomplishment today has bestowed upon me. I turn around. I see other parents standing. I want to help them, but I don’t know how. That path is for them to find. But for me, I turn back around, face the stage, and listen in perfect clarity.
For I have hit my goal, and now will simply relish in the present moment of Little Packages and Everlasting Fruitcake.