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There is nothing more precious to me than receiving a hug from a student…or former student.

These kids of mine are so amazing and wonderful and mischievous and sneaky and clever and talented and frustrating and tender and insightful and any number of other things. I always find it such a surprise to discover that even though I haven’t actually birthed any of them, my love for them is some kind of fierce.

So when they honor me by demonstrating a shared love with me, my heart bursts open with happiness and overflows. Nothing tops this.

Except…maybe this.

Tonight I had the opportunity of attending a school production of Pride and Prejudice performed by some of my former students. Aside from the fact that P & P is one of my all-time favorite stories, I firmly believe in supporting the arts whenever possible, so I probably would have gone to such a production anyway. Knowing every single person in the cast, however, added a significantly delightful dimension to the production.

As a performing artist myself, I am well aware of all the hours that go into such a production…all the late nights catching up on homework after rehearsals…the flashcards with my lines tucked into my backpack or on my car’s dashboard, always available for a quick review…awkward moments on stage when you learn how to portray intimacy with a fellow actor without losing your dignity…learning dance steps and successfully avoiding stepping on your partner’s feet…the endless amounts of thread in making costumes and modifying them as needed…the deep connections made with your castmates as you see each other in every possible mood and range of tiredness. To know all of this happens behind the scenes makes a production even more valuable…particularly in high school because someone is graduating this year, making this production the highlight of that someone’s life.

Tonight was no different. Some of these kids have been acting together for four years…for some, this was their first production. It didn’t matter. They all knew, liked, and loved each other and the support was evident. The practice was evident. All lines went smoothly, all scene transitions and every mark was hit perfectly. For those who have been acting all four years, their performances were not at all surprising, yet still captivating. I couldn’t help but think back on their first performance in high school and notice how much they have grown and changed and developed into such expressive beings.

But the ones that always give me a catch in my throat are those who I’ve known for four years and they finally perform in the last show of the year their senior years. I have spent almost every day with this kid and I know him to be a thoughtful, witty, honorable, clever, diligent person and now I see a new side to him…an actor. And not just an amateur actor. This may have been his first theatre production, but his nuance and comedic timing and body character were so exquisite that you would have thought him a professional. I sat there stunned…and astonished…eagerly anticipating his next entrance.

I loved that there was so much more to know about him and with a little pang, I realized that my time to watch him and be a part of his life was almost over. As I sat there, watching all of these kids who I love so fiercely, I realized that this might be more precious than receiving a hug…this chance to be a part of their lives and watch them grow…watch them struggle and support them through it…watch them stretch and try and try again…watch them practice repeatedly until they finally succeed…and watch their success with pride for all the work and commitment and love they put into this performance, regardless of their chosen field of demonstration. 

This is what I love most of all…to love my kids so fiercely, be proud of their growth and accomplishments, and then release them start their own lives. This moment of release is the best of all…the gratitude to have been able to watch, even for a little bit and be a part of it just for a little while overwhelms me…the hug is just the icing on the cake.