Monday, March 22, 2010

Where's the Party?

March, 2010

A little bird in the form of a little brother had given me the heads-up, so I was prepared when I ran into Iris an hour before a Shakespeare Club meeting.

Iris joined the club last year as a replacement and, now in fourth grade, assured me that she "really, really wanted in" this year. She's a fair child, blue of eye and off-the-charts sophisticated for her age. Last year she harbored a crush on Nathan and wrote in her journal of wanting "to watch the sun set, on a beach with Nathan." That girl's ready for a glass of chardonnay and a cigarette, I thought.

"Hey, Iris."

"Hi, Ms. Ryane."

"Shakespeare Club today," I chirped while organizing materials for our meeting.

"Well, Ms. Ryane, I can't come today."

"Hmmm. Would this be because of a certain birthday party?"

"Yes. So, I can't come today."

I sat down and faced her straight-on. "Here's the deal, Iris. You can't miss Shakespeare Club for a birthday party. You're part of a team here. Everyone counts on everyone else. You and your parents were told at the beginning that attendance is mandatory. So, if you choose to go to that party you'll be kicked out of Shakespeare Club."

I ran into Darby a while later and she had the same story and I delivered the same warning. "If the party starts at three I don't think it'll be over by four-thirty. I'd be happy to take you later, Darby, but you have to be here for rehearsal or you're out."

As the group lined up for warm-ups, Lizzie handed me Iris' script and a letter. I scanned the note, a missive apparently sent from Iris' corporate headquarters. I spotted her walking off with a wheelie suitcase in tow.

"Iris," I called. She looked, I crooked my finger and she strolled over.

"I am disappointed by your choice, Iris. It's too late to replace you. Are you absolutely certain you want to do this?"

Iris dropped her eyes and firmly bobbed her head, once. She looked like a novice renouncing all worldly goods.

"Okay, I respect your decision but you have to tell them."

We stood side by side and waited for the group. I rested my palm between Iris' shoulder blades. We looked like a ventriloquist act.

"Iris has something she would like to say to you."

She closed her eyes and took a breath.

"I'm quitting Shakespeare Club. I'm sorry."

And off she marched, straight-backed, tugging her wheelie suitcase as if about to board a flight.

I later told the kids what had transpired and how pleased I was that Darby made another choice by staying with us.

    Dear Ms. Ryan,
    I do not want to be in Shakespeare anymore. No, it's not because of the birthday party.

[When someone says "it's not because of," it's usually because of.]

    Shakespeare just doesn't make me happy like last year.

[Nathan's gone.]

    It would be better to let someone in Shakespeare who wasn't in it last year or any year. I'm in room 39 if you want to come talk to me.

Iris comes from a single-parent home. When I dropped Darby off at the party I spoke to Iris' mom and passed on the info of her daughter's choice.

"Oh, it's probably because I told the kids we're moving," the mother commented.

"You're moving? When?"

"April first."

"And when were you going to tell me?"

"Oh, I thought we'd tell everyone once I signed my contract."

How should this girl be expected to honor a commitment?

I hammered out a letter for all the members to take home. I reminded parents and guardians that I was a volunteer, that they'd agreed to the commitment and that we were halfway through the season without having enjoyed full attendance even once.

Gee whiz, I wouldn't mind going to a party myself.

The next week I gave Iris her journal and said it was hers to keep. I assured her that I was not angry.

[When someone says they're "not angry," they're likely fuming.]

Deep breath, arms high. "Hello sun!"

I want to be in Shakespeare Club because I love to act and I consider myself a good acter. One day, I hope to be an actor along with many other things. I think this is a good way to get its really fun.

What I leaned about Willian Shakespeare

1. He died on his Birthday
2. He had two sisters who died
3. His father went into debt
4. He was 70 years old when he died.
—Iris, 4th grade

bluebird by George Coghill

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