George was sad. You could see it on his face.
Unfortunately the audience for that face was half the school. During the holiday assembly, as his class sang "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town," he wasn't singing. He was in obvious distress. As the kids around him pantomimed "you better watch out, you better not cry," he was preparing to do just that: cry. The celebration taking place in the cafetorium was muted not the least little bit by what appeared to be his imminent collapse. Everyone on stage and in the crowd was immersed in the cute assault that first graders singing about Mister Claus making his list and checking it twice.
Except for two people. George and his mother.
Seated in the second row, George's mother was urging her son on, mouthing the words to him and shadowing the choreography. Each time George's eyes met his mother's, the tension increased. Mom's help wasn't having the desired effect. Just the opposite. All the stress that could be summoned up for this one performance was focused on this one six year old boy.
George is a very clever kid. He knows his dinosaurs and is happy to share what he knows about if you give him the chance. Sometimes it's about video games. Sometimes it's about the idea he has about dogs. He has boundless energy. On his own, he is a show. Now, here he is with an opportunity to show off, and he can't.
At least not the way he wanted to. Or his mother wanted him to.
George is also hopelessly devoted to his mother. Even though they don't see each other as much as they would like. She drops him off at seven thirty every morning, and at the end of the day he is picked up by his daycare provider. Sometimes he spends the night there. His mother is working. She is equally devoted to her son, but her job keeps them apart.
Showing up to watch her son perform was a gift for them both. And it was overwhelming. When George's class trouped offstage, his mother met him at the stairs. She put an arm around him and he buried his face in her jacket. It was all too much. Now it was over. Together again, George and his mother walked out the side door. And they kept going. They would have some time together now. Christmas had come a little early.