Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cold-Foot Conrad



February, 2010

Conrad wanted to be in Shakespeare Club so much he weathered the demands of an audition and begged his mom to let him attend meetings. We arranged rides home on Wednesdays with Wendy's mom.

And then he started to disappear. He missed one week because of illness. Another meeting, as we were about to begin, he came to me with watery eyes.

"Ms. Ryane, my head, it really hurts."

"Conrad, that's awful. What kind of hurt?"

"Really bad hurt and everywhere in my body too."

He did look pale and I had no doubt he was in pain. I had Rachel take him to the office, where he promptly conked out on a cot for two hours. When Rachel brought him back and he turned down a snack I knew he had something flu-like in his system.

Two days later I saw Conrad in his computer class.

"Hey there, Conrad, how are you feeling?"

"Oh, I'm better, Ms. Ryane."

"That's great. I'll see you on Wednesday for Shakespeare Club."

I trilled my voice on "Shakespeare Club" because I know how much Conrad loves the club. I sang it out like a little "me and Conrad" secret. Yippee, Conrad, it's going to be greeeaaat!

I missed the signals. Every teacher and parent knows what it is like to miss signals. And when we do, we feel like dolts.

The following Wednesday, when I dropped by Mr. C's class to remind Conrad, Wendy and Krystal that today was Shakespeare Club, I got a surprise.

"Ms. Ryane." I looked down at Conrad whispering up at me.

"Yes, Conrad?"

"I have to take the bus home today."

"What? No, no, Conrad, you go home with Wendy and her mom, remember?"

"Conrad, you go home with us!" Wendy piped up.

"That's right, Conrad...I'll see you at two-thirty....Yay, Shakespeare Club!"

Dolt.

He didn't show up. When I called his home that night, his mom sounded bewildered. "I don't know what's happened. He says he can't do it. He feels terrible, like he's let you down."

I took Conrad out of class the next day for a little private chat.

"Ms. Ryane, I'm so, so sorry...." he had a wail in his voice and his face crumpled up.

"Hey, Conrad, it's okay. Really. Let's sit down under the tree and you tell me what you think happened."

"Well, Ms. Ryane, I think I just got the stage fright!"

"I see. Well, that can happen. It happens to big movie stars so it could happen to anyone...the stage fright. But you figured this out at the perfect time because I was just about to announce casting and now it gives me time to find someone to replace you. It's really not a problem, Conrad, and you know what? I'm proud of you for making a choice that's best for you."

"Yeah." He looked down into the palms of his small hands and shook his head. "One time I had to do this thing at church...you know that thing we say...." Conrad struggled to remember what that thing was and smacked his forehead to dislodge the thought. "You know...oh...what's that thing? Yeah! Pledge of Allegiance? I had to say it and I forgot it!"

"Oh, I see. You had to say it all by yourself?"

"Yeah."

Well, Conrad, everything's fine here. You don't have to do Shakespeare Club and if, in the future, you want to give it another shot, we'll revisit the idea when you're in fifth grade."

"Yeah."

"Hug?"

We shared that. I looked down into his brown eyes.

"Conrad, I'm not mad. You didn't let me down, I promise."

I'll miss him, though. I'd cast him as King Duncan. Here it was week five and I was already saying more good-byes than hellos.

But...right around the corner...the universe planned a bigger "Hey, Ms. Ryane!" than I ever could have imagined.

Stay tuned. King Duncan is about to ride in on a white stallion.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
I want to be in shakespeare club because it's cool and exciting and have fun and I want to act in a play and I want to know more about Williamm Shakespeare.

1. In that time he could get sick really easy.

2. His dad was a glover.

3. His mom did a lot.
—Chloe, 4th grade

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