Exit stage left

When my children reach a finish line at various stages of life, I try not to get too sentimental about the fact that a chapter has closed.

Sure, some of them are easily celebrated – being done with diapers, being able to ride a bike without training wheels, and, of course, being able to respond to “I’m hungry!” with “Well, then make yourself something to eat.”

Others are tough, however.

Such as when you realize your child is no longer going to bring home school craft projects.

Or when your child drives off alone for the first time.

Or when you realize they are probably going to see that new superhero movie with their friends instead of you.

But I tell myself not to lament these closures. Rather, I tell myself to celebrate that my wife and I were able to successfully usher our kids to their next phase.

I found myself having a little bit tougher of a time not lamenting such a closure the other night, however.

I sat in a high school theater, watching my daughter take a bow onstage at the conclusion of the play “All Shook Up,” where she played Mayor Matilda.

And I said to myself, “This may be the last time I see her perform on stage.” At that point, the person to my left began cutting onions, and the person to my right blew dust in my face. Yes, that’s what I’m going with.

My daughter is a senior, and this was her final high school theater performance. She has been involved in theater since she was four, when she played a rabbit in a Winnie The Pooh play. (It was a tour-de-force performance, widely regarded as one of the greatest rabbit performances of all time, mainly because she was four and managed to not fall off the stage.)

She took to the stage naturally. Over the last 13 years, she has been consistently involved in some aspect of theater.

When she was 5, she auditioned for a role in “Best Christmas Pageant.” I took her up to the auditions and was pleased to see her taking an interest in it. I had done some theater when I was in high school, but drifted away from it in college.

As I sat back away from the auditions, letting her do her thing, the director realized that no men had come out to audition for the role of the dad. They asked me if I would read for the part, which I reluctantly did, mainly at my daughter’s urging. I got the part (yes, I realize I was cast out of a pool of one), and my daughter and I were soon on stage together.

Getting me back involved in theater soon led to my wife getting involved in theater. And with us came our son, and we spent the next decade with theater as our full-time, non-paying (but incredibly rewarding) jobs. Allie’s interest in theater was the snowball that brought us into that world, a gift she gave us that has had such a remarkable impact on our family over the years.

When we moved a week before her freshman year, she immediately found her tribe in the high school theater department, something that helped her transition into the scary world of starting high school in a completely new town.

But she’s a senior, and she is heading off to college next year. She has her eyes set on a major that is not theater. But as I can certainly attest, even if you get out of theater for a while, you can always get back in.

But I realized at that moment this was the last time I would see her on stage when we are a family of four under one roof. Because this chapter is closing. And as much as I want to be sad that it is closing, I have to remind myself that this is the best possible thing that can happen, because time only moves forward. So go write that next chapter, Allie Gibbons. And break a leg.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at scmgibbons@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

 

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