Monday, November 30, 2009

Henry: Life's a Casserole

April, 2009

The parents' booster club held a fund-raising auction in May. I attended this glorious and fun affair with its requisite Margarita bar and taco stand. Music played and everyone seemed in high spirits, bidding on restaurant gift certificates, spa treatments and sets of luggage.

I was told later the evening had been a tremendous success and much was raised to fill the school's coffers. This, of course, pleased me because those monies fund The Shakespeare Club.

The evening, however, also provided a jolt no amount of tequila could possibly numb.

Two mothers took me aside to tell me Henry's mother had taken seriously, dangerously and suddenly ill. She was in the ICU. Eight-year-old Henry and his four-year-old brother were being cared for by a set of grandparents and an aunt. The family had hunkered down in Henry's small house and the community was signing up to deliver food.

Henry would be playing Malvolio in our production of "Twelfth Night." A show, by the way, that was within weeks of performance. Henry lives, eats and breathes Malvolio, and my first thought was "He must continue; we cannot take this away from him."

Henry and his brother were only told "Mommy's sick and in the hospital, getting better."

Henry's mom is a young and golden woman, the picture of health. Only the day before, I had been in communication with her when she admired a group photo of The Shakespeare Club. Only the day before....

So much news....

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to Heaven.
All's Well That Ends Well Act I, Scene I

Yes, well, prayers nevertheless might help. Continuation, indeed, would serve. And, when left wondering and aching: mac and cheese.

I ran into Henry a few days later at school.

"Henry, how are you?"

"Good!" he answered, full of sun.

"So, just wondering...did you get the dinner I sent over to your house?"

"Yes, Ms. Ryane...mac and cheese."

"Well, I remember you telling me that was a favorite of yours, so I wanted to make sure it was especially good."

"It wasn't good, Ms. Ryane," Henry made this statement with a serious look.

"Really? Gosh, I'm so sorry."

"It was great!" and when he said this he bounced straight up in the air.

Once more, I was delivered the lesson. This was another way to handle difficulty, upheaval, fear and the unknown.

Henry's family made sure he attended all of our final rehearsals. Relatives flew in from across the country to see his performance. His mother was in the hospital for a long time, and upon release faced months of rehabilitation. After the performance, in the mad chaos of people and children, I hugged Henry — but I didn't know it would be the last hug. I didn't know I would not set eyes on the child again.

Henry was whisked away to a far part of the county to live with his grandparents and attend another school.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The Tempest Act IV, Scene I

I cannot and will not, ever again, look at a dish of mac and cheese without thinking of the littlest, bravest and funniest Malvolio.

My life in Illyria is a suvent. The food I eat is awesome. Do you know who I am? You don't. I am Malvoleo! It is fun being a survent. But Sir Toby and Sir Anderw and Festa are so anowing!
—Henry, 3rd grade

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