NEW CASTLE —
What agony is this?
What evil villain has prepared this dastardly event and entrapped me in its bitter grasp?
The scene: An elementary school gym on perhaps one of the hottest and most humid days of the year. The mercury is pushing the 90-degree mark and the humidity has made the air heavy and thick. Clothing is drenched with sweat as hundreds of parents are packed into the sweatbox that doubles as a gymnasium. Beads of sweat cover my forehead and I a feel a trickle of perspiration run down my back. There is no air circulation, only the oppressive heat that is amplified by the excessive amount of human bodies cramped into this one small space like cattle.
We are here to observe our first-graders perform a series of patriotic songs. We are packed shoulder-to-shoulder on the rickety bleachers in the gym. A less than adequate sound system crackles to life and squeaks out an over-synthesized, karaoke version of “We Are the Kids of America” and “America the Beautiful.”
Why am I here torturing myself and embracing this glorification of mediocrity and acceptance of the fitting-in mentality? Well, allow me to explain.
A few nights ago, I was preparing for bed and my daughter came bouncing down the hallway and hopped up onto the bed beside me. She looked up at me and directly into my eyes then asked, “Daddy, do you have to work Wednesday night?”
A bit perplexed I responded, “No baby, I work day shift on Wednesday. Why?”
She continued to look at me, intent on delivering her message and said, “Because I want you to come to see me sing at my school.”
My jaw half dropped and my eyes turned glassy as I realized what had just transpired.
“Of course I will come see you, baby,” I replied with a stammer.
She said, “Good!” as she hopped off the bed and skipped down the hall, oblivious to how big she had just made my heart feel. Her innocent request had slapped me between the eyes and made me realize how important a little thing like this was to a first-grader.
Turns out, my daughter and her class had been practicing the songs for several weeks and they all made special sparkly shirts with stars on them to wear for their performance. They each had a “solo” sentence about America and the flag.
She did a wonderful job and knew all the words to every song. She also spoke strongly and poignantly when it was her turn to deliver her line. She made me proud, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Besides, how could I refuse an invitation like that?
NEW CASTLE —
What agony is this?
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