I almost don’t want to write this. I’m afraid that somehow the words won’t be big enough or that the joy will escape before I can figure out how to describe it.
I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how words can possibly convey the enormity of the experience. How do you describe light? How do you tell magic? How do you write heaven?
The best I can do is share the pieces. It’s bound to be choppy and a little - OK, a lot - disorganized. Grammar will be summarily dismissed, or at the very least disregarded.
I don’t know how else to do it. There were just so many individual experiences contained within the whole – so many small and not at all small moments that will stay with me (and I dare say my girl too) forever.
Like when Brooke came into my room on Sunday morning and the very first words she uttered were, “We get to go to the Godspell play today!”
Or when we explained in the car on the way to the theater that this was a rehearsal – a practice – and that they might have to stop singing in the middle of a song. How Katie sang and I yelled, “CUT!” so that Brooke would understand what might happen. When it became a game and she started calling out songs for her sister to sing.
When the play began and John the Baptist came from behind us singing Prepare Ye and Brooke sat watching the cast – rapt and silent, with a ferocity and intensity and complete, unwavering attention, the likes of which I have never seen and am failing miserably to convey here.
How Jesus sang God Save the People as he was baptized by John, then stepped into his costume and Brooke’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. How she gave voice to the Jesus doll in her arms and pointed his little hand to the stage as she said in her best attempt at a husky baritone, “That’s me.”
How she announced after every score which one would be coming next. How she knew each and every line and each and every song and the order in which they would come.
How the Jesus doll applauded after every scene – his own biggest fan.
How she rolled with the nuances of the show, dutifully pointing out – yet blissfully unruffled by – the differences even as I held my breath, hoping we’d prepared her enough for the fact that it wouldn’t be exactly what she knew.
How the words of each song exploded like fireworks and hung in the air around us. How Luau and I looked at each other through tears as the cast’s clear, strong voices joined together in All Good Gifts. How we exchanged a glance acknowledging that no other words could have meant more in the moment.
We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!
How Brooke pointed skyward with the actors as they sang Bless the Lord, her favorite of all.
How we listened to the cast’s joyful rendition of Light of the World and I lost myself in a memory. “Mama,” Brooke had asked so long ago, “How do I be the light of the world?”
How even as she begged to go home during the intermission, confused and upset that the actors had disappeared, it was all OK. Yes, even then, when we convinced her to stay and promised her that they would return. How Katie asked to take her to the ladies room and yes, I let them go alone. How they came back without incident and sat back down, ready for the show.
How the director came over during the break to ask if we were enjoying the performance and Brooke told her that she was waiting to hear “Turn Back, O Man, Alas for You, By my Side, We Beseech Thee, On the Willows and the finale.” The look on the director’s face as she watched her tick the songs off on her fingers or the way she stuttered as she said, “Wow, she’s um, wow, she’s exactly right.” And then again as she added, “And then the Day by Day Reprise.”
How she came to life during, “Turn Back, O Man” excitedly telling all who would listen that that was Mary Magdalene.
How I tried to hold back tears as Brooke climbed up on my lap and we listened together to my favorite song, By My Side. How the soft melody wrapped itself around us like a blanket and how I would have sworn that the lyrics were written just for us, just for the moment.
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth
Where are you going?
Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you
Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk
I can walk!
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will walk, we will talk together
We will talk
Dare shall be carried
And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing
“Meet your new road!”
Then I’ll take your hand
That I am here
By your side (By my side)
How I kissed the top of Brooke’s head, again and again throughout the song, thinking that my girl was WITH me. Realizing in a blessed moment of perfection that we were truly, blissfully TOGETHER. How she let me rock her to the music, swaying in my arms.
How Jesus came over after the show to say ‘Hi’ to her. How he made sure that she’d gotten the poster that the cast has signed for her. How he somehow seemed to get it. How he knelt down next to her, but didn’t get too close. How he was gentle and sweet when she introduced him to his little doppelgänger and how the doll whispered a breathy, “You’re me.”
How she asked the whole ride home if we could invite Mary Magdalene to our house for a playdate.
How she woke up yesterday morning and the very first words out of her mouth were, “I liked the Godspell play, did you?”
How she told me that she thought it was funny when Mary Magdalene was in jail and couldn’t get out until she paid ‘the very last penny of her debt.’
How her aide at school yesterday told me that she was beaming all day. How when Brooke had crawled onto her knees, joined her hands, bowed her head and closed her eyes in class, she had smiled and told her that she could pray, but perhaps not in the middle of the classroom.
It wasn’t until yesterday morning that I saw the status that Luau had put up on his Facebook page on Sunday night. He had written, “For three hours tonight, life felt .. typical.”
I had a very different experience. While I don’t take anything at all away from his sentiment, I have to say it was nothing like mine. For me, the night was anything BUT typical. He later told me that he felt like autism wasn’t there. That for three ecstatic hours, it had receded into the background and blessedly, finally, just didn’t matter.
For me, autism was front and center that night. Autism was part of what made the whole thing what it was. There is nothing in our world that compares to Brooke’s pervasive and abiding love of Godspell. Sure, Katie loves Taylor Swift and a show would be a hoot. But does she listen to her EVERY day, google her, watch clips of her EVERY chance she gets? Does she draw pictures of her in Halloween costumes, at the dinner table, riding on a rocket ship? Does she talk about her, reference her, create games and scripts and whole worlds around her? Is she literally imbedded in every aspect of her life? No.
I can think of nothing that comes close.
If Brooke were not who she is – autism and all – that experience would never have been what it was. For her nor for us. While I’m not ready to say that I’m grateful for autism in and of itself – not by a long shot – I am deeply thankful that within it there are moments like this. Moments of grace, moments of joy, moments when judgement is replaced by generosity and kindness and the world comes together to make something wonderful happen for a little girl who deserves nothing less.
Brooke and Jesus