When I was in primary school, every autumn, our school hosted an arts festival where each school year would prepare either a music performance or a play and present it in front of the rest of the school and all the parents and guardians. For about two months leading up to the event, we practiced our performance together daily, and each of us practiced our own part at home as well. Due to the amount of effort and commitment, there was always a charged atmosphere before the event.
Performing something in front of others is nerve-wrecking and requires a lot of courage, especially so for young children. Every year, a few weeks prior to the event, quite a few of us fell sick due to the anxiety about the upcoming big stage. But luckily, it was very rare for anybody to miss the actual day – somehow, the timing of sickness was perfectly arranged so that they would recover by the day of the event.
The autumn I was in Grade 4, our school year prepared a music performance for the arts festival. I remember that one boy in another class got quite sick a few weeks before the event and he was even admitted to a hospital for the treatment. When he didn’t return to school for many days, we became worried that he might not be able to make it on stage with us.
“Let’s send him our best wishes so that he can recover soon and come back to perform with all of us!”
Our teachers said to us at each practice session, and we really hoped that he wouldn’t have to miss the day with us.
So, when he did come back to school just a few days before the event, everybody was delighted as well as the boy himself. We were a tight-knit group of 160 children, and it was important that not even one of us was missing.
On the day of the festival, we were all dressed in our uniforms and lined up at one end of the auditorium, preparing to go to the backstage. It so happened that I was standing not too far from the boy who had just recovered from illness. He looked very happy to be back with his friends. I saw him standing, chatting and playing with a few other boys in the line.
Then, just as we were preparing to leave, one woman came running from the audience seat. It was the body’s mother.
“Honey, honey!” she panted as she caught up with us and reached for her son. “Are you feeling all right? Are you drinking water?”
She then put her hand on his face and checked if his temperature was fine. This embarrassed the boy.
“Mom, I’m fine! You should go and sit.”
But his mother had a further list of things to check.
“You got your handkerchief, honey? And tell me once again what you do when you suddenly feel sick on stage.”
“I’ll call my teacher immediately.”
“Yes, good. And you can sit whenever you don’t feel well, ok?”
“What? You mean sitting down on stage?” The boy thought it was too funny. “Mom, everybody will think I’m crazy if I suddenly sit down during the performance!”
He and his friends laughed. The boy’s mother simply smiled and turned to his friends.
“Boys, I know this guy is usually a tough one, but he’s been really sick for the past days. Please keep an eye on him during the performance, will you?”
They all nodded eagerly, showing their support, but at this point, the boy had had enough.
“Mom, you’re embarrassing me! You should go and sit. We’ll be starting soon!”
“All right, all right,” his mother laughed and hugged him again. “Ok, good luck, everyone! I’ll be watching your performance!”
For some reason, I’ve never forgot about this conversation. Even though I was only a bystander, I felt the deep sense of love and care from this mother and wondered to myself if this was how every mother would feel toward her child.