“I feel sick!…” she said.
Well you wanted to do it, I thought, perhaps rather callously. She was only four at the time but I felt totally stressed at the thought of her performing live on stage.
“…And I want the toilet.”
She was nestled up against me in the dressing room looking small and strange in her Mickey Mouse Costume.
“Come on Chelsea, you’ll be fine,” said one of the grown up dancers in her rustly, sparkly outfit which Chelsea would rather be wearing.
She took Chelsea’s hand and walked from me towards the huge looming dark of the stage wings. One tall. One tiny. It was as much as I could do to stop myself from running after her and grabbing her back. Gut-wrenching doesn’t come near describing it. My organs were doing somersaults. Not sure who was more terrified.
I swore I was never, ever going to let her do this again however much she said she wanted to. I was her mum. I knew best, didn’t I?
I joined the others in the audience and dribbled my anxiety to Charles from behind a tissue.
“But it’s just in her,” he said. “It’s her who wants to perform, it’s not up to you. She’s just so into it.”
“I know. But she didn’t understand about shows and stuff, she’s too little.”
“She’ll be fine, you’ll see…” he broke off as the hush descended with a fanfare and the curtain rose.
Definitely me more terrified.
For my tiny little four-year-old stood totally alone and totally cool with it, centre stage, beaming in the spotlight as she waited patiently for silence to settle. Then single-handedly announced the forth coming show to hundreds watching with a voice that suggested she’d been doing it for years. And strutted confidently off to mounting applause and ‘Aws!’ from all around.
And I knew then that she had in her that something I had no concept of, that I completely underestimated, and really had no part in developing. Performing was part of who she was; I didn’t always know best.
It’s been like that all her life. A tornado of emotions as several times a year we watched her in every show and got through all the times she felt sick.
“You can stop whenever you want to,” I always said. I always got the disdainful glare. Even a ten year old could make me feel like an idiot for thinking that was an option.
It was only Drama school that nearly destroyed it. Making her so hung up about an ability she was sure about before, just like any institution hangs kids up about their abilities if they can’t be forced to fit. How I hate them for it. But with that indomitable courage she’s bounced back.
And this weekend I’m going away to see her in her first performance in the Brighton Fringe.
And I know I will be filled up with love and pride. And will no doubt need those tissues more than ever!