Driving home from a play rehearsal the other night (for Les Miserables at the Civic Theatre!) I found myself listening to a rough, raw recording of our cast running through one of the big production numbers for the first time. As bumpy and unpolished as it sounded, there was so much beauty there that I could have listened to those voices, sung those songs and pored over that score all night.
And right then it hit me: this feels a lot like the blind love that keeps a parent infatuated with their child through all the bumpy, rough and demanding moments that the “audience” never sees.
I remember staring obsessively at a little blob on an ultrasound screen, with tears in my eyes as we discovered within the grainy image a tiny nose, ten toes and a curved forehead. I still study those faces when they are sleeping, and trace their features with my fingers.
Lately, I have been ardently listening to recordings of songs from this show, checking out different arrangements, voices and interpretations. It’s a show I have dreamed of doing since I was a teenager.
I am tracing its features.
It is a grueling responsibility to care for kids in sickness and health, through meltdowns, sibling fights, math homework, and travel baseball tournaments in oppressive heat. But that behind-the-scenes work means that we parents know our kids better than anyone on the planet. I know exactly how each of my kids liked to hold their blanket, their favorite shade of blue, and the fastest way to put a smile on each face when they’ve had an awful day.
Weeks (or, in the case of this colossal show, months) of rehearsals will push actors’ limits, but by the end of the run we will know the show inside and out, including the words to the parts that never make it onto the soundtrack recordings and how to pronounce the French names of every minor character.
Others only get to see the finished, shining, glorious production in the spotlight, after all the dirty work has been done.
“Your kids are so adorable!” they’ll say.
“The show was great!”
It all looks more polished and impressive from the audience perspective.
But it could never feel so beautiful as it does when it’s your baby.