the harvest – part two

*

Godspell – the back stories

Why Godspell?

Heading to New York

The Seed Time

The Harvest (Part One)

*

Oh please, take me with you

Let me skip the road with you 

I can dare myself

I can dare myself 

I’ll put a pebble in my shoe

And watch me walk (watch me walk)

I can walk

~ By My Side

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I’m pretty secure in my writing. I really am. In the three years that I have been writing the blog, I have grown to believe that I have the ability to convey a story – to share with you the emotion therein, to bring you along on the journey. And yet, this morning as I sit down to write this one, I am steeped in insecurity. I honestly don’t know if I have the tools to deliver this in all of its grandeur. How do you describe magic? How do you find words for the kind of joy and pride and excitement and energy that flowed through the theater that night? I don’t know if I can. But damn it, I’m gonna try. 

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While we waited for the show to begin, Brooke bounced in her seat. She folded herself into it, then popped back out. She curled into my arm, then propelled herself away. She kicked at the stage, not two feet in front of her front-row seat.

“Where are they?” she asked.

“Who, baby?”

“The Jesus friends.”

I explained that they all would be coming soon.

We ran through the drill yet again.

We don’t sing along.

Unless they say, “Audience, please sing!” Um, right, baby. Unless they say that.

We use full body listening.

Closed mouth, listening ears.

We remember that we are AT the play, not IN the play.

We don’t go on the stage. It’s only for the grown-ups. 

A man in a red Godspell cap approached our seats. I thought (hoped) that perhaps he was a member of the crew with word on how to find Danny, the director.

Um, no.

He leaned over and very gently asked, “Is this Brooke?”

I had to laugh as I said, “Well, sort of.” I introduced him to my daughter and told him her real name.

“I’m Ken Davenport,” he said with an outstretched hand, “The producer.”

I knew who Ken Davenport was, but even as I shook his hand, I couldn’t believe that ten minutes before curtain, he was standing there talking to us.

He handed Brooke a teddy bear wearing a t-shirt that said, “See, Love, Follow” and a red Godspell baseball cap that matched the one on his head.

“Oh, Ken, thank you so much,” I said, a little overly gushy. “You really didn’t have to do that.” (Which loosely translated meant, “Holy crap, I really can’t believe that you are standing here and Ooooh,  a baseball cap! Now we have something for the actors to sign. Suh-weet!”)

Ken told us to stay put after the show and he would send someone for us.

If it had been even remotely socially acceptable, I would have knocked him down in a bear hug.

Moments later, my phone buzzed with an incoming message from Nick Blaemire, the actor who we had originally planned to meet.

hey jess! 

so sorry for my tardiness in getting back to you! i’ll meet you guys downstairs in the lobby after the show, and i’ll bring some of the cast! cant wait to see you guys – and hopefully we can go on a little walk around the theatre. 

hope you enjoy the show!

- nick

Once again, I was amazed and overwhelmed with gratitude. I could only imagine what life was like backstage, thirteen minutes to curtain, and yet that was when he had written the e-mail. So many people were looking out for my girl.

I wrote back to tell him that Ken had asked us to stay put, but we’d surely see him after the show. I told him how excited we were and used an inordinate amount of exclamation points just in case he wasn’t sure.

As the show began, Brooke was rapt. She wiggled and writhed in her seat, her body in constant motion. But her eyes never left the stage. She snuggled in against me, much as she had the night before in the hotel. She’d twist and turn, but always return to my side. She moved my arm around her, put it on top of her head, wrapped it around her shoulder and pushed it in for a squeeze – wherever she needed it to be to find momentary comfort. I was thrilled to oblige.

Here’s what I will say about the show. From as objective a place as I am able to muster, it was simply incredible.

The level of talent gathered on that stage was of a caliber that I haven’t seen in years. (And I’ve seen a fair amount of shows – both on Broadway and ‘Broadway in Boston’.) I was in awe.

The voices – my God, the voices. They were tender, strong, pure and beautiful. And the performances that accompanied them left me realizing I’d been holding my breath for full scores. I wiped back tears again and again, then laughed out loud with everyone around me at the hilarious and irreverent references to pop culture. It was current and silly and funny and moving and thought-provoking and inspiring. In short, it was delightfully true to its core.

The stage itself was a wonder of creativity and ingenuity. It turned from a stage to a pool of water (literally), to a pit and then to a bed of trampolines. One of Brooke’s only outbursts was to say, “Look, they’re bouncing!”

The show felt less like a show than an experience in which we all took part. We, the audience, were drawn in at every turn and I honestly felt like the show couldn’t have happened without us. The stage, the actors, the music, the electricity – it was all accessible. It wasn’t one step removed by an orchestra pit or by stuffy convention. WE were a part of the show. And I’m pretty sure that the little girl in the front row, more than anyone, felt it.

During one scene, the actors tossed necklaces into the audience. After they’d all been thrown, Nick scooped one up and ever so gently handed it to Brooke.

During intermission, Lindsay Mendez (who sings a rendition of Bless the Lord My Soul that has officially ruined me for any other version forever), came and sat by the edge of the stage to talk with Brooke. “Hey,” she said, “I like your boots. They’re kinda like mine.” Brooke looked right at her (you got that, right? She LOOKED. RIGHT. AT. HER. and said, “Beautiful singing.” Lindsay was gracious and sweet and I dare say touched.

But there was one moment that nearly did me in. The ridiculously talented (and um, well, exceedingly hot in a young, before-he-got-so-looney-that-he-wasn’t-hot-anymore Tom Cruise kinda way) Hunter Parrish stood right in front of us during a song. And he sang that song TO my girl. And he pointed at her as he sang the words. And my kid, the one who can’t really report what just happened to save her life totally took it in and later, when I asked her, “Baby, what did Hunter sing to you?” answered with a huge grin and told me EXACTLY what he sang to her. And the tears well up behind my eyes when I think about it because the words were, “You are the light of the world.” Ad well, it just doesn’t get any better than that, now does it?

I wiped tears again and again. When Uzo Aduba sang “By My Side” it was all I could do to hold it together. When Brooke added a tiny echo, the way she knows the song from the CD, and sang, “By my side” in that angelic little voice, it was all I could do not to let it all go.

By the time that they carried Jesus up the stairs singing Beautiful City, I was toast. I wept openly. It was no longer a choice.

When the cast came back to the stage, the standing ovation was as real and spontaneous as any I’d ever seen. My girl was standing clapping as hard as anyone around her. “They carried him,” she said. “Yes, baby,” I answered. “They did.”

As the theater emptied out, we waited in our seats, as per Ken’s instructions. Within short order, we were the only ones left. Just us and the electricity that still flowed through the empty space. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Eventually, the stage manager came to bring us to the stage door. We waited for a just a few minutes and then out they came. There was no one in the theater but us and them. It was heaven.

Nick was the first out the door. Without thinking, I ran to him and hugged him. Neither of us let go even as I said, “Um, I know I don’t know you, but, well … ” Still hugging like long-lost family, Nick said, “Oh, Jess, we know each other!”

And then they spoke to Brooke. Nick told her how wonderful it was to see her there in the front row throughout the show. Telly said it was so great to meet her. George told her he was so happy she could come. Uzo admired the feathers in her hair. Julia took the Jesus doll for the picture. It was all a delirious blur.

I asked if the cast if would mind posing for a photo with Brooke. As you can see, they were all miserable and stuck up and wanted no part of it. You know, except not.

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Below is Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, who Brooke had singled out among her favorites. She called her ‘the girl in the blue princess dress’ because well, I don’t really have to explain that, do I?

.

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And then there was Hunter.

My voice cracked with barely held tears as I tried to tell him how incredible his performance as Jesus had been and to explain to him why it all mattered so much to us. He squatted down to Brooke. He asked her old she is. “I’m eight,” she said, “How old are you?” He laughed and told her he was very old at twenty-four. I refrained from hitting him cause he was, ya know, being really nice and talking to my kid. He asked her for a hug. He may have been Jesus, but she has her limits. “A pinky one!” she said.

And so they did.

.

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Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Hunter, still squatting down to Brooke, looked at me. “My mom is an OT,” he said. “Most of the kids she works with have autism. I totally get it.”

And this girl, who was raised Jewish, never believed in God, somewhere along the way found some twisted sort of faith and whose daughter has given her the gift of Jesus’s teachings through a 1970s movie, suddenly believed that there was no way that God didn’t have a hand in bringing her little girl to meet the actor playing Jesus whose mom is an OT. (If you followed that, give yourself a prize.) 

We walked out of the theater floating on air. My heart was full with the joy of the moment, the energy of the show, the pride in my girl and damn it, myself – I had been able to deliver this experience to my girl. But more than anything, with gratitude. Gratitude for all the people who made it possible, both overtly and otherwise. Those who wrote to Ken to tell him our story, those who connected us with the people who could connect us with other people, those who responded to our last minute pleas. And you – you who supported us throughout, thought of us that day and sent along your good wishes for my girl. Every one of you was there with us as we exited the theater and stepped out into the street.

We stopped for a moment on Eighth Avenue. I grabbed my phone, determined to capture the moment.

In seventeen seconds, she said it all.

.

Happy.

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97 thoughts on “the harvest – part two

  1. Would you believe I have woken up every day and thought, “I have to read what happens next!” I am sitting here crying. That was so beautiful. I prayed that God would show up there with you…

  2. Hey everybody, wasn’t it worth the wait!!! It was magical and Grammy’s totally puddled again. Reminder, by the way, that the pinky hug was invented by Grandpa DD when Brooke would not kiss his bearded face!

    Jess, you’re an amazing Mom and an an amazing everything.

    Love you,
    Mom

  3. How can you tell you’ve been a DOAM reader for a while? When your hubby sees you crying in the morning, instead of asking “what’s wrong?” he says, “Good post today?” LOL.

    Loved it. Thanks Jess. Way to go Mama. xo

  4. oh Jess…you had me okay all along the way until Jesus’ mom was an OT. now I’m a puddle. so happy for your amazing trip and the memories for you both forever. And the actors/producers deserve a huge special shout-out here too. We all know it could have gone a different way. But their tenderness and love and light came through off stage for your little girl. That’s magic. I bet it’s a day they remember forever as well.

  5. I am crying for joy at my dining room table. The joy that you got to share with Brook. The moment . . . the evening. ONe that neither of you will EVER FORGET. . . you were BOTH in the moment.

    The icing on the cake was the troupe. Holy smokes. Brooke must be walking on AIR. . . . and I am sure she had a LOT to share.

    It is amazing how she can look someone in the eye, and for you to post it, and for us to cry. Everyone has worked so hard for that moment to occur! Enjoy it and live it for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

    You and your family and the people you have let in your life were all behind the makings of this story.

    • Me too! 5:50 am and I’m “Happy” to have spent another morning in Brooke magic. Lovely to hear her voice (and awesome direct answers and super appropriate request to see pics!).

      LOVE it! Awesome.

  6. ‘And this girl, who was raised Jewish, never believed in God, somewhere along the way found some twisted sort of faith and whose daughter has given her the gift of Jesus’s teachings through a 1970s movie, suddenly believed that there was no way that God didn’t have a hand in bringing her little girl to meet the actor playing Jesus whose mom is an OT. (If you followed that, give yourself a prize.)’

    i follow you.

    only all joy and love for you and your girl, my friend. so much.

  7. Favorite.Post.Ever.
    “So that they might know some kindness again
    We all need help to feel fine……” Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  8. Started crying a paragraph in. You have a sea of readers in tears. LOL. Happy joyous tears. What a fabulous, stunningly told story. Thank you for it (and congrats on creating such perfect memories)!!

  9. omg…I’m SO HAPPY for you both! TEARS are welling up in my eyes at reading this. So beautiful, and perfect. Just magical! = )

  10. I’m a puddle. Totally wrecked. Completely useless for the rest of the day. And happier than I have been in a long time.

    You delivered magic, Mama, and it was a gift to us all.

    xo

  11. I loved every word of this, and don’t worry your writing served you well. Actually, I only needed the 17 second video to “get it” (and it was nice to hear your voice for the first time!). This was the most touching, affirming-of-the-essential-goodness-of-humanity thing I have read in a long, long time. So happy for all of you!

  12. This is the most wonderful, beautiful thing I have read and watched today and this week. These miracles are shared and resonated with our “extended families” and celebrated as if our own. Thank you for sharing this (exceptionally!!) wonderful trip :)

  13. “And this girl, who was raised Jewish, never believed in God, somewhere along the way found some twisted sort of faith and whose daughter has given her the gift of Jesus’s teachings through a 1970s movie, suddenly believed that there was no way that God didn’t have a hand in bringing her little girl to meet the actor playing Jesus whose mom is an OT. (If you followed that, give yourself a prize.) ”

    I did follow this! None of this is an accident. There’s a reason for all of it. You brought me in. I felt like I was in the front row with you and Brooke. What a great day! Bless you for sharing!

  14. Beautiful experience…..still can’t control the tears! I just hope to share something that amazing with my baby girl one day! She’s only 4….and just recently became verbal!! :) thanks for yor posts every morning!

  15. Ok, I am through it four times in two hours and I am still unpacking the emotion of it all. I am wiping the tears and it is hard to explain what I feel but I will try . . . most of the time that I am reading your blog I am with you . . . meaning my focus is on your focus . . . whether that be your girls, your advocacy efforts or one of the hundred other important subjects you write about. Every once in a while I separate a bit and I focus on you. Inevitably it is a worry — that you are stretching yourself too much, that you are not getting enough rest, etc. Then, when my anxiety for you reaches a fever pitch, you are on the receiving end of an email that writes itself. Today, I am both with you and a bit separated. The dam that broke today is certainly about Brooke – how she DID this – the whole huge weekend – going to NYC, dealing with the extraordinary change in routine, the noise, the hustle and bustle, and (of course) how she took in Godspell in a packed theater (lets all not forget that she could only enjoy the dress rehearsal of the local production not too long ago), etc., etc., etc. Her extraordinary progress lifts me to places unseen. But then, weaving through every line, is my thoughts about you. That maybe this weekend and this experience may have come together more for you than for Brooke (or, at least, in equal measures). Maybe you did not “deliver this experience for my girl” only. Maybe you delivered it to yourself as well. And, heck, maybe, at least parts, were just delivered to YOU from . . . .

    I have my own thoughts about this weekend, including – “why” and “why now” – but I hope you will take a moment to twist the experience around in your mind just a bit more. Shine that light not only on Brooke but on yourself (not for us but for you). Feed your soul my beautiful and brilliant friend. You so deserve it.

    • There, right there, well said April. I am just a mum from the other side of the world so don’t know DOAM other than through this blog but I think you hit the nail on the head – well said.

  16. Okay. I got through the post. Then I watched the video. And I heard your voice at the end saying “I love you SO much.” I know that waver in your voice at the end. That’s the waver that says that words can’t express how much you love her, how you wonder if she knows, and that life is so hard and good all at once.

    That’s what got me.

  17. You have restored my soul this morning. Seriously, find a publisher! The rest of the non-blog world needs to read this stuff, it’s glorious. Although, the pages would be soggy, like my keyboard :)

  18. It took me twice (or maybe three times) as long to read this morning, through the tears :) So happy that you had this magical and amazing experience. Also happy that there are people out there willing to do these things for our kids (even the little things that mean so so much). Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. You give me so much hope. :)

  19. Oh and you just sold some tickets to Godspell. I have never seen the movie and all I know about it I learned from Brooke (through you) but something tells me that I would LOVE it too. :) But, jeez, STOP stretching my “miscellaneous/entertainment” budget line! . . . Jeneil’s book is due to arrive on my doorstep tomorrow! :)

  20. I seriously need to read these entries before I get to work because bawling while trying to hide my face behind my computer is just not working for me.
    Amazing!! Thank you.

  21. Yea. yea. yea. I am so happy for ALL OF US. I say all of us because you mean so much to your readers. I think it would have killed me if it wasn’t wonderful. Sobbing with so much happiness for both of you. It helps so much to know that there is kindness, warmth, compassion and understanding from others. Thank you for sharing your world with me. Now, I might take the train to Boston to find you!!!!

  22. This makes me so happy. It is so great to know that all of these people went out of their way to make a difference to one little girl. I have thought a lot lately about the story of the boy throwing starfish back into the ocean and there being too many to make a difference and his response was that mattered to each one he threw back. We can make a difference one child at a time.

  23. And, work makeup ruined.
    We have to work so much harder to connect with our little ones, but when we do, oh boy, is it worth it.
    You are an amazing mama.

  24. Seriously – not appropriate for me to be sitting at my desk, at work, blubbering like this! This is a picture I will hold in my heart for days, maybe years, to come. And like April, I am now online looking for tickets to the show. We could all use some of that magic!

  25. Note to self: stop reading DOAM at work! Everyone who walks into my office is going to think I’m crazy, sitting here bawling for you and your girl. I’m so, so, so happy to hear how well it went, Jess.

  26. If it sounds magical to all of us, I can only imagine the reality of it. I am so glad that everything turned out so incredibly well in the end, for Brooke and for you! What an amazing experience – thank you for taking us all along with you both.

  27. Yep…here I am…another one in tears…thank you for them.
    What an incredible story…it doesn’t surprise me at all about the cast…theater people are good people…I have no doubt that meeting you and Brooke meant just as much to them as it did to you.

    I am so happy that the two of you got to share this amazingly beautiful experience.

    Also…the video…what a perfect way to sum it all up…you can hear the HAPPY in her voice…and most, if not all, of us know how rare that is.

  28. Amazing, wonderful, waiting every morning to read it all. My dear, dear friend is Aimee, who connected you with Nick and we were both giddy when she said she you called her – you are a rock star to us. Yes, Jess – please know when you are going through the toughest of times, you are a true inspiration, energy force for us other mommas w. daughters on the spectrum. So so so proud and thrilled for Brooke and for you. Happy tears flowing.

  29. Glad I could read the post before getting ready to work, but now at work reading comments…oh well. The magic came through loud and clear. We know where you’ve been, and what the struggle is like, and what it means to have a dream like this come true, and you convey it so much in every single word. I’m so happy for you, and for Brooke, and for the connection, most of all the connections. Still waiting on the library to borrow a copy of the movie from another branch. The librarian was as surprised as I was that they didn’t carry it themselves.

  30. It’s an interesting paradox, isn’t it? There are people who would think that because we have children who aren’t “typical”, that we might use it to argue against the presence of God. And yet…the times that I have most felt His presence are related to the birth and life of my daughter. That Brooke has such an affinity for all things Godspell cannot be a coincidence. What a wonderful, soul strenghtening experience you have both had; thankyou again for allowing us in!

  31. Note to self – don’t read posts like this at work. I am crying as I finish reading this amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing your story and the pictures, and the wonderful video at the end. Thank you for reminding us that for every rude person who stares or shuns our family, there are caring people who want nothing more than to make our day better. One of the unexpected side affects of this journey is the simple pleasures that mean so much more to us than any “normal” families can ever understand.

    Thank you for making my day! pinky hugs to you and Jess.

  32. Simply magical. Still crying…tingling even at the magic and beauty of it all. We are all so overjoyed this happened for you and sweet Brooke! I’m sure this will bea memory savored for a lifetime. :)

  33. As others have commented, this post says as much about you as it does about Brooke. When I have those doubts as to whether anything I’m doing makes a difference, when I lose my energy and my patience and my sanity, I will try to remember this. You move mountains for your daughter and you inspire all of us to do the same.

  34. I started reading and then realised I had just put makeup on and now would be a bad time to finish.As it is I need a tissue. I love happy tears.

  35. Oh, Jess, My heart is so warmed by this it’s catching on fire. (And I am so glad to have played my small part in it.) Just. beaming. from ear to ear as I read. I’ll be taking my nice Jewish boys to the MamaDrama bloggers performance this Sunday and thinking of you and your special girl the whole time. (Especially while I’m reminding my autistic son: No singing along unless they say “sing along” over and over again.)

  36. Maybee it’s just my age, but everytime I read one of your stories, I have to clear my eyes. I think you got your point across very well. I thoroughly enjoy your writing.

    Keep it up and God bless you and yours.

  37. I am always amazed that you are my little girl who grew up to be an angel, a fantastic mommy, and the best daughter any father could ever have. This was so very beautiful and so very you.
    Your baby will fly with the eagles because her mommy will lead her there.
    Love dad

  38. You have such an amazing gift at writing, Jess. I felt like I was right there, beside you and Brooke, taking in every magical moment.
    And, um, I’ve never seen Godspell, but I’m gonna have to do it now so I can sing along! :)

  39. Yeah. I just waited until now to read all three parts of the story, because, well… I knew. I just knew. Tears. I’m so happy for you! I replayed my buddy Bob and my conversation about hope over and over in my head while reading the story. And when I read this: “And this girl, who was raised Jewish, never believed in God, somewhere along the way found some twisted sort of faith and whose daughter has given her the gift of Jesus’s teachings through a 1970s movie, suddenly believed that there was no way that God didn’t have a hand in bringing her little girl to meet the actor playing Jesus whose mom is an OT.” I cried. But the tears were easy to wipe away once I saw the video!

  40. So awesome – believe me we were all riveted and not disappointed. What a sweet precious memory! My heart is swelling with joy for your baby girl and your family.

  41. I don’t have the words to describe how much these posts about your trip to NYC have moved me (that, and it’s hard to see the keyboard when you’re sobbing).
    Thank you so, so much for sharing this.

  42. The day we took my son to the Day Out with Thomas (you have girls…you may not understand…smile)…we drove up and there were trains everywhere, and his rare little voice said, “The Island of Sodor”–he thought we were THERE–and everywhere around him were the trains that he loved so much and me being the one who took him THERE–it was the best–I am SO GLAD that your day was so beautiful, and while I’m weeping, I’m smiling that there are ever those beautiful days, especially after rotten weeks. Lately I’ve been chanting this to myself, “God is up to something good.” Always. You saw it in NY.

    • I love that Jett . . . “The Island of Sodor”. My baby boy is big now and your post made me miss those “Thomas” days. :)

  43. So beautiful. I just read all your posts about this. AMAZING. In that video at the end? I can hear the magic in your voice. I am so happy for you. What an amazing thing to come together with people who so got it and went so out of their way for one little girl. It may have been an afternoon for them, but for her? She will remember that gift that you and the cast and crew gave her forever.

  44. Pingback: Links to Love: Diary of a Mom | MomOf6

  45. So glad to have the back story. It. Was. Wonderful! Love that Jesus’ mother was an OT. Kinda like what’s on the horizon….

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