Her gaze was sharp as I unfolded the sheet of paper she'd just handed me:
It read: "Will you com to are show?"
"Check 'yes' or 'no'" she said, jabbing her finger toward the rectangular shapes she'd drawn under the invitation, which was more of a misspelled demand gussied up in a question mark.
"The E in 'come' is silent," I said taking the pencil from her, erasing ARE and rewriting OUR.
What I neglected to do was check a box.
She frowned and asked again.
"Is it a 'Yes' or a 'No?' What's your answer?" she said, tapping her fingers repetitively on the paper as her foot stamped at the floor.
I stalled. Trying to think.
A good parent would be excited their child was displaying such creativity.
A good parent would happily check the box marked “Yes.”
A good parent would call the neighbors. Invite the grandparents. Get out the video camera.
A good parent would then follow their pint-sized usher toward the bedroom where The Show to End All Shows had been prepared.
A good parent would smile and applaud the unscripted play in which anything (though not likely anything good) could happen.
A good parent would wait around patiently until the bitter (and I do mean BITTER) end and demand an encore.
I was a "good parent" once, the experience changed me.
The last play I was invited to witness lasted longer than The Ring of the Nibelung and ended when the not-old-enough-for-prime-time players bounced precariously on the "bed stage" and started tossing all their props into the audience with gleeful, though ear-splitting, shrieks.
It was the elementary school equivalent of a 15-hour opera.
This new production had all the same earmarks.
"What is this play about?" I inquired pointedly.
"That's up to you," she said craftily, explaining that she and her friend had produced several themes from which we, the audience, could choose. "Like at the movie theater."
"No. Definitely not. I am not going to your show."
Her eyes narrowed to mere slits.
"Let's just say not everyone finds unscripted entertainments entertaining."
"That's so MEAN! Why won't you come to our show?"
"Because ... if it's anything like past shows, it will end in drama. And drama isn't our strong suit. Drama just leads to time outs, rescinded dessert offerings and early bedtimes."
"This time will be different," she pleaded. "I'm in First Grade now."
But I know it won't be different. There will be a darkened bedroom theater with no place to sit but the floor. There will be a kerfluffle over the gate -- most likely one that questions the authenticity of The Champ's ticket. There will be a long list of previews, the titles of which will verge on inappropriate, but no feature performance. And someone will end up crying either because they weren't allowed to finish or they fell off the stage.
I'm serious when I say "Nothing good can come of a play."
The potential for hurt feelings is more real and the duration could go on forever. Think: the airing of family squabbles. Think: How some folks REALLY FEEL about stuff they just barely tolerate. Think: Do I really swear like a long-haul trucker? I must because she's added it to the script.
"Well what WILL you watch then?"
How about a music video? We'll pick a song and you can dance and sing, and it will only last two and a half minutes -- tops.