Charlie Brown needs black pants
That’s what I scribble on a sticky note as I’m sitting in my living room. There are other items on my sticky note:
stripes on house
I will do these things later, and I jot more notes as I remember. I sit in a brown leather chair facing my living room window watching as these words, the ones you are reading now, rise up from my computer screen.
I should be entering grades.
A happy change this year: I’m no longer bound by "shoulds."
Through the door to my right, I hear a woman talking about graphs, re-learns, and excels. As she speaks, I can hear another sound, a coo. I recognize it as an infant, and smile. Like me, this woman is teaching from home, and I marvel at her, talking through my own son’s screen, my sixteen year-old son who long ago made cooing sounds, too.
When he and his sister were infants, we often sang Snoopy’s song from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown to them. "They like me. I think they’re swell. Isn’t it remarkable how things turn out so well?"
I wonder what his Calculus teacher sings to her baby. She has no idea how much love I am sending to her, to her baby, through her Zoom call.
I’m on a Zoom call of my own, just outside my son’s door. I’m muted, but I’m available, as students work on the papers I won’t have time to grade this week. I’m here if they need me. If I unmute myself, they will hear my son’s Calculus teacher and her child’s coo.
My son is muted on his own computer. I know this because he is now playing a jazz piece on his keyboard while the teacher talks and her kid coos. He’s been composing this song for weeks. He plays the same sections over and over and over.
I know his screen is dark. He would never let his teacher see him, even though he sees her and her cooing kid.
He might be paying attention to the lesson. He might not be. I’m glad the teacher lets her kid coo. I’m glad my son is playing the piano. We’re all learning.
I’m a teacher, and I don’t care about grades. At all. Not this year.
I don’t usually work from home, but it’s Wednesday. The rest of the week, we are in-person, but every Wednesday is remote so the maintenance staff can thoroughly clean the building. It’s a nice mask break mid-week, but this afternoon, my husband, son, and I will head back to my school.
Because it’s Tech Week. You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown officially opens tomorrow. My husband is the technical director. My son is Schroeder. I’m the artistic director. We have rehearsal tonight from 3:00-8:00pm.
I recognize that this is a miracle.
It was in the sixties earlier this week. It’s turned cold, a high of 48 today. I’ll pack on layers. The mask will warm my face. But I’m trying to figure out when I’ll find time to go shopping for the black pants. I don’t care if it’s cold, but I care if Charlie Brown is. Charlie Brown only has black shorts. I'm wondering if Charlie Brown needs black pants. It needs to be right. In a year where so much has gone wrong, Charlie Brown deserves to be warm.
Last year’s show didn’t happen, but I don’t spend much time fretting about it. A lot of things didn’t happen. I wasn’t there when my dad died. I wasn’t there when folks gathered. Instead we held our own small ceremony at a nearby forest preserve where I once took my dad and step-mom when they visited one winter. My son and I have been driving there after our rehearsals, watching the setting sun as the crunching snow and frozen lake morphed into patches of vibrant green. I’ve learned there is nothing special about our losses.
This is happening, though. The play.
It’s just a play. It’s not just a play.
It is play.
I’ve developed an obsession with sidewalk chalk.
When I was assigned to outside morning duty this semester, in January, in Illinois, someone asked me, “Who did you piss off?”
The truth is I really like morning duty. People trudge up the sidewalk, and I’m a caffeinated ray of sunshine. Annoying, I know. I bring the chalk. I offer every person who walks up a chance to draw on the sidewalk, If they say no thanks, I ask if I can draw a smile for them. They always let me.
They think I do it for them, but I do it for me.
One day back in February the sky had the audacity to snow after a week of temps in the fifties. As students slushed up the sidewalk, I brandished the chalk like a sword and yelled, “Are you feeling rebellious?”
The students know me. They were only mildly puzzled.
“Defy the weather!” I told them. “We will draw with sidewalk chalk. No slush will stop us!”
We didn’t care that chalk dissolves pretty fast in slush. That wasn’t the point. Turns out the colors are more vibrant when wet. When the first bell rang, I only had tiny nubs of chalk left. I love those nubs.
I spent thirty bucks on a box with 150 sticks of sidewalk chalk. My goal is to use the whole thing before June.
I used ten sticks of sidewalk chalk to direct folks from the parking lot to the check-in table for our show. The messages includes arrows and guidelines: this way, do you have your blanket, your folding chair, dress for the weather, follow proper protocols. Check-in here. Stick figure drawings show how to have a member of your group check-in.
It’s a bit unnecessary, my messages. I’ll recognize all of the faces. It’s just the families and friends of the cast, crew, and pit. It’s not much, but it’s more than I thought we’d have. I’ve made a seating chart for the 50 people who will attend each outdoor show.
Our principal and the maintenance crew have drawn 22 circles, separated by six feet, on the grassy hill in front of the lunch patio. Four people can fit comfortably in a circle.
We’ve spent a year inside small circles, and this is no different. Except it’s entirely different. Our circles are facing the same direction, toward the stage.
They will see the lunch patio transformed into a comic strip. The bright yellow fence, the cartoony brick wall and purple couch, Snoopy’s iconic red house.
It’s so simple.
All of those comic strips, each square holding everything.
It had to be Charlie Brown. And so it is.
I haven't fretted over any of it. I haven't been holding my breath. I was prepared for it to end before it even began. The process matters, I told myself. The auditions would have been enough. Then the rehearsals. The set build. And it would have been. But so much could have gone wrong--the numbers, the weather, the whims of it all. I've realized what a relief it is to let go of such things.
I will not get Charlie Brown the black pants, but it’s okay.
Bitter cold can come. The sun, too. We might bundle in our circles on the grassy hill. Or not. We’ll weather it either way.
And I won’t be able to explain why I cry when the music starts, when I see us gathered, songs lifted, so bright and joyful and simple.
"Isn't it remarkable how things turn out so well?"
I shouldn't be surprised when the play goes on.