There are turning points and there are turning points. One of the biggest in my life happened behind the stage at a high school production of Annie. Alec was in the musical, his first ever, and asked if I would volunteer to be a back stage helper the week of the show. Little did I know, after that experience, my life would never be the same.
I am forever changed by the cast, crew and directors of the 2009 UHS production of Annie. Or as I like to think of them, as the little family that could.
I‘m pretty sure that I, a 47-year-old mom of two, grew up backstage amidst the craziness of that little show. Somewhere between the first time hearing the orphans sing “It’s A Hard Knock Life”, and the last rendition of “Tomorrow”, I let go of the stereotypes, fears and insecurities I had held onto since I was a teenager.
I have mentioned before in this blog that I came from a very middle class, protected, naïve kind of childhood. My biggest stress growing up was whether or not I got A’s, and having to wear braces, twice. The kids I met in Annie had lived more life in their short years, than I ever had. Maybe ever will. And when I normally would have shied away from them, feeling awkward and inadequate, I was instead forced to just deal. They needed me, and it was the best thing ever. For once I didn't allow the fear of people being different, to deter me from making new friends.
As I watched the group of “misfits”, okay they weren’t really misfits, but it kind of felt like that, bond through each performance, I found the lump in my throat getting harder and harder to swallow. It was such an honor to watch a great thing happen. The kids grew closer after each show, finding themselves stronger together, than they ever were apart. It was awesome.
I may have even found myself a little jealous of that bond, and certainly a lot envious of their talents.Throughout the production, they'd lost several cast members, even Daddy Warbucks had to be replaced late in the rehearsal schedule. Yet somehow, the show just went on. Alec himself went from being a chorus member, to having about 4 other parts, many of them with lines to speak and even a mini solo. So, the “misfits” as I lovingly call them, just made it work, even calling the director, Daniel, into playing a pivotal role in the second act.
Daniel probably doesn’t even know that he was the catalyst that started a huge change in me. Backstage amidst the stress and chaos, he calmly told me that he and his wife, Ella had vowed “to love all children.” And I could see that despite his being stressed out and exhausted, he truly believed this whole production was worth it...for the kids. He was so right.
That simple statement, from a young, dedicated teacher (and soon-to-be first time dad), changed my view on life. Period.
If you knew him you might wonder how a confident, outspoken, opinionated hard head like Dan, changed my view on life. There is no easy explanation for why. He just did. It was an aha moment for me. I was either ready for the change, or he might just have been brilliant. All I know is, from that point forward, my life has been on a different course. A better course.
Without Annie, there would never have been a Sadie, or eventually a Jeffrey. Nor a John, Emily, Leanna, Amber, Katie, Eric or Tomas. (I should actually list every name from that musical as contributors to the person I have become.)
Thinking of the multiple personalities we had behind that stage, how far everyone came in their journey, and how brave everyone was, still chokes me up. I wondered why I cried the final night of the show… I see now it was because I knew I had experienced one of life’s small miracles. The kind that happen out of the blue and cannot be re-created, ever. The ones you least expect and forever treasure.
Thank you Dan and Ella for believing in the kids, and the show, and for giving me the opportunity to be part of it. Thank you cast of Annie for opening my heart. For helping me find the patience, love, and understanding that was always inside me.
I will never forget you. Ever.