"I can't believe it, Mommy. I am finally a Native American! Finally, I am a Native American! It's been three years, three loooong years. Two years being a Pilgrim. A stinkin' Pilgrim! And one year being a grey squirrel. Now, I finally get to be a Native American!"
Nick had unbuckled his seatbelt as we pulled into the garage and was flailing around the back seat, alternately colliding with his brother and pausing to check himself out in the rear-view mirror. He was completely thrilled at how the first day of rehearsals for this year's Thanksgiving performance went.
I had to think for a minute about the previous three years of Thanksgiving performances which admittedly were a bit of a blur.
He was definitely a Pilgrim in pre-K. I still have that cute picture of the two of them standing together in front of their classroom door: Nick as Pilgrim and Vince as Indian. They were only 4. So cute. I love that picture. What was Kindergarten? I have no recollection of the performance at all. I was working so much during that time. And last year, first grade, I vaguely remember the squirrel tails. And what the hell does a squirrel have to do with Thanksgiving?
"I remember the squirrels!" I told him.
"Grey squirrels, Mommy, and I had to do that stupid dance." Nick rolled his eyes at the thought of turning around and shaking his squirrel tail (read: ass) in front of all the parents in his class.
"Don't stay stupid. What were you again, Vince?"
"I was a turkey, Mommy. Don't you remember?"
Why can't I remember a year ago? I need to dig up that video.
"Vince was a turkey. I was a grey squirrel and Vince was a turkey." Nick wanted to be sure that I had the full picture clear in my head, which I still didn't.
"Yeah, Mommy. I have been a Native American twice and a turkey once." Vince announced from the back seat with a proud smile, very pleased with his range as a performer at the tender age of seven.
Now they were both hanging over me as I sat in the driver's seat, parked in the garage.
"Oh I know, Vincie!" I smiled back at him.
"This year we get to do it in the Multi-Purpose Room." Nick explained the promotion up from the classroom performance that apparently came with being a second grader.
"On the stage." Vince added.
"Yeah and its three classes: mine, Vincie's and another one."
"Well, that worked out for us. We all get to be together!" I told them.
"And we're singing a bunch of songs. It's kind of a lot to remember," Vince said.
"I'm sure you can do it. You'll have lots of practice."
The day of the performance was here in the blink of an eye. Where in the world is the time going?
Three classrooms of second graders giggled their way into the Multi-Purpose Room and stood on risers on the stage. Pilgrims and Native Americans galore!
Jeff was on still shots and I was on video.
The children sang along to the completely antiquated but totally charming elementary school "house" sound system. Song after song about turkeys narrowly escaping their Thanksgiving table fate and meal preparations gone wrong separated by brief introductions for each number recited by individual second graders.
The final number brought the house down.
We heard the first few notes of Lee Greenwood's 1979 hit God Bless the U.S.A. and the children started singing right on cue, until they realized the music had stopped and started again and they were no longer in sync with the music. But to their credit, they took it in stride. After a brief moment of intent listening, they were able to find their place and commence singing along to the music again, until the song started itself over again, then again, and again, and finally the recess bell sounded. All the children shifted and grumbled on the risers in a collective WTF? while all the parents and grandparents giggled and shifted a little themselves, wondering how this one was going to wrap itself up.
Vince's teacher attempted to adjust the sound system to no avail when finally another teacher stood before the children.
"You all know this song, right?" She asked them .
"Right!" They answered enthusiastically.
"So, let's do it!"
And they did.
Sixty beautiful, little voices sang a capella about their pride in their country and what it means to be American. And even if the children didn't all fully comprehend the meaning of the words they were singing (we aren't a very culturally diverse group here in the distant suburbs; the vast majority of us hail from families born into our country's freedoms generations ago), I'd like to think most of the grown-ups did because there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
And it didn't matter if we were dressed up as Pilgrims or Native Americans or poultry or potential road kill, time seemed to stand still for just a few moments and we were all just grateful.
Lee Greenwood performing his famous song in 1985:
And of course Whitney, RIP: