May 08, 2013

We know that it's probably magic

When I was a sophomore in high school, Outdoor Girl and I sneaked into the auditorium one day after school and stumbled upon a group of teenagers dancing on the stage. We hunched down in the dark auditorium, feeling quite invisible, and the teenagers up on the stage ignored us.

There were no teachers around. A teenager in jeans and a black t-shirt seemed to be the person in charge. He kept talking to the kids clustered around him and explaining dance steps. “Okay, that’s the cue. Bend your knees! Like this.”

He was an incredible dancer. He spun and twisted to the music. The other teenagers watched him in awe, and then they attempted the dance. Their dances were a poor imitation, but he kept praising them. “Yeah, that’s it! More with the arms!”

Entranced, we watched the whole practice session. I wondered what had led these teenagers to spend their afternoon dancing but Outdoor Girl had the answer. “The Senior Variety Show,” she whispered. “They’re practicing.” This was 1977, and variety shows were as popular then as reality television shows are now.

The tradition continues, at least in our local high school if not on the television screen. Last weekend, With-a-Why’s class put on their senior variety show. We all went, of course. I felt a little twinge of sadness as I sat down in the familiar auditorium, where I’ve been to so many events. With-a-Why is the youngest of the local grandchildren, the last to graduate from the school that we’ve been involved with for so many years.

The first act of the show was a corny bit that ended with all the seniors, most of them wearing superhero capes, rushing in through the back door of the auditorium and running up the aisles, yelling and screaming. That kind of opening is a tradition. The show was mostly individual acts that showcased the talents of the graduating seniors, interspersed with skits that involved jokes about teachers, boys dressed in girls’ clothing, and inside jokes about the school and pop culture. Not much has changed since the 1970s.

About halfway through the first part of the show, the lights in the auditorium dimmed and a spotlight shone on the grand piano. With-a-Why, in black dress clothes and a red tie, was seated at the piano. He began playing a song familiar to every person in the room, and then he began singing into the microphone:

Why are there so many songs about rainbows, 
And what's on the other side? 
Rainbows are visions but only illusions 
And rainbows have nothing to hide. 

So we've been told and some chose to belive it.
I know they're wrong; wait and see. 
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection 
The lovers, the dreamers, and me. 

The whole auditorium was still, listening to his voice. No, he wasn’t doing the Kermit the Frog version: he was performing a jazzy version, an imitation of Peter Cincotti.

The senior variety show traditionally ends with a slideshow. The seniors in the show, dressed now in matching hoodies, all walk out and sit down on the stage, and everyone watched the images flash across the screen, with everyone exclaiming over cute pictures of the kids when they were in elementary school.

This year, when the slide show ended, they didn’t raise the house lights. Inside the spotlight shone again on the piano, where With-a-Why was seated. The kids on the stage, their legs hanging over the edge, their arms around each other, turned to watch him, and he played Claude Debussy’s Clare De Lune while his classmates listened.

10 comments:

L said...

Awwww..... that's just so beautiful! I bet lots of people were teary-eyed!

Jody said...

I think my heart would have stopped. What a moment.

Melissa Sarno said...

I got chills while reading this. Beyond this just being a really beautiful story, those are two songs I love because I learned to play them with my beloved piano teacher in high school. She used to sing Rainbow Connection while I played. : ) Thanks for bringing back the memory of those songs and that time.

Zhoen said...

Awesome.

Karen said...

That sound wonderful. We have an assembly coming up as my middle son leaves our elementary school for middle school. There is a similar slide show at the end with lots of photos....Im going to need many tissues.....

beemama said...

*sigh* I used to sing that to my babies when they were tiny. They grow up so fast . . .

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Awesome story. I love both those songs, too!

My sons are having their school play at the end of May, and for the youngest, this is his first production. I am so excited. They are adorable, practicing their parts!

robin andrea said...

Such a poignant post, brought tears to my eyes.

Rev Dr Mom said...

Wow.

THe last kid graduating high school is bittersweet....

readersguide said...

Wow -- I love that song, the Rainbow Connection.