One of the great challenges of being a parent or a grandparent comes around this time of year, when every grade school and high school puts on a play or musical.
I don’t have to tell you about the joy of seeing your own flesh and blood standing there on stage, desperately trying to remember their lines.
Sadly, this thrill lasts for only a few minutes. Then comes that moment when you realize your incredibly talented child’s one big line or one big song is over and now you have to listen to all these other little kids who, frankly, have no place on the stage compared your child or grandchild who, with a little luck, can easily go on to become the next Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan, minus the drugs, drinking, tattoos, and shoplifting, of course.
My own career on the school stage came to a disastrous end when I was eight years old. I was, naturally, a child prodigy, and I played the mandolin. Every little Italian boy played the mandolin in those days, unless he was blind, in which case he played the accordion.
I was given the honor of playing for the assembly at PS 95. My job was to sit alone on the stage playing “Pomp and Circumstance” on the mandolin while the entire student body of the school marched down the aisle to their seats.
So there I was, sitting and waiting for the music teacher to hit the two chords on the piano, which was my cue to start playing, when I started daydreaming. The teacher, old fat Miss Rossman, kept hitting the same two chords, and I was just staring straight ahead. Then, when I realized it was time to play, I froze.
Finally Miss Rossman heaved her 260 pounds onto the stage, where she forcibly removed me by pulling me by the arm, and then she dashed back down to the piano to play the students in. I was the laughingstock of the third grade.
However, my disgrace on the stage of PS 95 pales in comparison to the worst school play experience of my life.
That came a number of years ago when I was summoned by my daughter to view a command performance by two of my grandchildren in a school production of the much-hated Alice in Wonderland.
Do you know a single human being who ever liked Alice in Wonderland? When you talk about over-rated pieces of doo-doo, Alice has to be on the top of everyone’s list.
And yet, since 1865, when it was first written by Lewis Carroll (while he clearly was on crack), we have had the “Alice in Wonderland Conspiracy,” which has been passed on from parent to child.
Every child comes out of the womb hating Alice in Wonderland, but from the moment they are born they are force-fed the Alice treatment. They get started with musical mobiles spinning Alice characters above their cribs. They are read to sleep by the Golden Book version of the book . . . they watch Alice cartoons . . . they are forced to sit through Walt Disney’s interminable flop version. As they mature, they realize they’re bored, but they don’t want to break their parents’ hearts and tell them that this so-called classic is a stiff.
Then they grow up and have children of their own and what do they do? They inflict this moronic, confusing book on their own children. And if that’s not bad enough, every once in a while some jerk in the movie business or one of the networks takes a shot at boring the entire nation with still another version of Alice in Wonderland.
There’s even been a porno version, and I will bet the next porno version of Alice will star Stormy Daniels as Alice, and guess who will play the Mad Hatter?
So there I was, sitting alone in this loud high school auditorium filled with giddy parents warmly greeting their neighbors with a sweet sincerity that you can only find in the suburbs. The show was produced by a sadistic music teacher, who got up and talked about the wonders of Alice in Wonderland.
When the show started, it was beyond boring. From 20 feet away every school kid looks alike, so I had no idea which of the kids were my talented grandkids and which were some other grandparents’ creepy untalented grandchildren.
Every second was an hour. “This is a nightmare,” I thought. “This will never end. I’m going to die here.”
A minute/hour later, the thought of death began to grow on me.
I can just see those headlines: “Kindly Old Granddad Dies Happy While Watching Grandkids Perform in Alice in Wonderland” in the Daily News.
The New York Post’s headline would be, “Was It Murder in Kiddy Theater?” with the subhead, “Did the Mad Hatter Run Amok?”
Finally, after what seemed like a month, the lights came up and many of the parents and grandparents gave the performance a standing ovation. One of my legs was lucky enough to have fallen asleep during the dreary show, so my getting up to applaud the piece-of-dreck show was a nightmare. Many mistook my tears of relief for tears of joy.
A note for grandparents who are going to be snookered into attending a grandchild’s show this year. Here’s a tip on how to make the show move along once the lights in the auditorium are dimmed:
Purchase at least 20 little airline-sized bottles of vodka, which you can hide in your pockets and shoes. It’s best that husbands and wives work as a team. Grandpa can open the bottle, take a slug and pass the bottle on to Grandma. Grandma can finish off the bottle with one swig and then hide the empty bottles in her purse. I promise, a great time will be had by all. And you can tell your grandkids that you were so filled with emotion by their great performance that your speech became slurred.
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