“It’s talent. Either you got it, or you ain’t.” Mel Brooks
Have you ever had one of those weeks where you feel like you’re so busy that the only way to get everything done is to clone yourself? The kind of week where you spend most of your time planning what your next move is going to be: the logistics of how, what, when, where, and why of activities A-Z, so much so, in fact, that you forget to take time to enjoy the activities as they arise?
Last week was one of those for me, and this week will most likely be one again. Between band concerts, basketball games, teacher meetings, postings, hostings, and talent shows, my head was constantly swirling with details about what needed attention next.
I was, however, able to slow down my churning thoughts long enough to enjoy the two evening talent shows.
First came the high school show, which opened my eyes anew to just how skilled the kids are at our local school. The program began with a ridiculously talented hip hop singer/songwriter girl who, I’d wager, would have made American Idol’s “Top Twelve” with ease. Next, there was a cello/piano duo who won over my heart with their soft, melodic tones. Then came my son’s saxophone octet replete with kitschy Star Wars costumes and dance moves, a fake light saber dual, and beautiful harmonies. My son is the one in brown and gold. (Others may see his outfit as black and blue. It’s all good.)
And finally, there was a senior boy who walked on stage and dedicated his performance to “the best dad on earth. My dad.” Had I been a judge, I would have marched up onto the stage right then and there and handed him the first place prize for that sentiment alone. And then I would have turned to the dad and given him an award for stepping up and being an outstanding father. But because I wasn’t a judge, I stayed in my chair and listened to this young man’s rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” with ever-growing goosebumps. It was simply riveting. (He’s the thankful chap in the black suit below.)
After a few brave teachers closed the show with a Blue Man Group spoof, and the evening was done, I sat reflecting on the immense talent we had enjoyed. What does the future hold for these kids? Will any of them go on to be paid performers? If not, will they cease to play their instruments and sing their songs and tap their dances as they move on to the rigors of college life, get married, have children and be swallowed up by complicated careers?
The answer came to me serendipitously on Friday night.
My mom, Mary Lou, recently moved into a retirement community, and my sister and I attended their annual talent show. The only reason we were at the show at all, really, was because my mom, bless her extroverted heart, had signed up to both play the piano and tell a series of jokes. This time, instead of a stage full of loose-limbed teens whose whole lives lay in front of them, there was a stage full of stiff-jointed, gray-haired souls reminiscing about the fulfilling lives they had already led.
Entering the hall, we wove our way past wheelchairs and walkers, grandpas and grandmas, and plopped ourselves down, amidst a sea of octogenarians on oxygen, uncertain about what we were in store for based on the night’s documented line up. There was a skit in the talent show’s written program called, “Age is a Funny Thing” then one called, “The Good Old Days”, and yet another titled, “The Grief Lady”. Frankly, based on the skit titles, I wasn’t sure if we’d end the evening with a chuckle, or with a good cry.
I have to admit, though, my expectations were exceeded by miles. Those old folks rocked the house!
It seems to me that “geriatrics” are one of the few remaining groups that society has deemed socially acceptable to make fun of. Yet, while I’ve always known it to be true, this talent show further illustrated that just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’ve lost your joie de vivre, your intellect, your skills, or, least of all, your sense of humor.
There was an Elvis impersonator who belted out a mean “Bossa Nova Baby”, an 80-something violinist who played a lovely Scottish lament of a song called “Ashokan Farewell”, and a woman who amusingly bemoaned the learning curve and service problems she was having with her newly purchased iPad and pc. Heck, I, in my 50s, could relate to her techno trials and tribulations in spades!
Then, as my sister and I sat with sweaty palms, my mom took the stage. It wasn’t that we were afraid that she would do poorly. Far from it. It was just that we were imagining ourselves up there with her. Getting up on the stage to tell jokes, or in any casual capacity for that matter, gives me a severe case of the willies. I can speak in front of a large crowd without a problem as long as I know my mission, and message, and it’s all business. But jokes? I’d have a really hard time with that.
Our projected worries were all for naught, however, because my mom, the ultimate entertainer, was a smash hit! And the look of enjoyment on her face as she spoke to the crowd was priceless. She was in her glory.
A short while after her joke telling act, she stood up to explain the history of “God Bless America” to the crowd and then led them in the singing of the anthem while playing the piano. She’s a very good musician, so they ate that up as well.
I once again found myself contemplating when the show concluded.
After the high school talent show, I had questioned what the teenage performers would do with their talents later in life. And here the answer was right in front of me. They’d continue to hone their skills when they could find the time, until one day, when they were older and gray, and were having a grand old time living amongst a group of their contemporaries, they’d march back on stage and entertain the masses just as jubilantly as they had 60 years prior.
The flame that burns within each of us, whether it’s for acting, singing, writing, nursing, woodworking, sculpting, basket weaving, or bird watching, is not extinguished by a head of gray hair and a few wrinkles.
It sill shines brightly.
The torch-bearer may need a sturdy hand to hold, however, as he or she steps out of the spotlight, down the stairs, and proceeds to the next stage in the continuum of life.