The Best Spring Play Ever

After getting roped into producing Rocco’s play last fall, I made a promise to stay away from ropes. Probably forever. So when Leo’s auditions for Pinocchio rolled around last January and the e-mails asking for a producer went from pleading to threatening to despairing, I said nothing. I avoided eye contact with members of the PTSA board when I ran into them at the grocery store. I despaired along with the rest of the play parents. Oh no! What are we going to do?

(We all see where this is going, right?)

I knew it was a risky move to attend the school’s game night in January, which would be swarming with PTSA board members. I knew it. So I prepared. I prerecorded a message in my brain and played it on repeat the entire evening: Do not say anything about the play. Do not say anything about the play. Do not say anything about the play.

But the PTSA leads have powerful magic. Suddenly, inexplicably, there I was, standing next to the Communications Chair, thinking, Do not say anything about the play, Do not say anything about the play,  while saying, “So, did you find anyone for the play yet?” In one swift motion, she grabbed my hand, raised it in the air, and yelled across the room, “HEY JENNIFER! WE GOT ONE!”

So there you are. Here we are.

Fortunately this time, two other hapless souls got roped in with me, and fortunately, they turned out to be two of the nicest, most capable, supportive people I’ve ever worked with. We were Rachel, Rachel, and Eva. The Three Rachels, as I liked to call us. We were…The Producers.

Over the next two months, I garnered enough stories and incidents to write my own version of The Best (Worst) Christmas Pageant Ever.

For example, the entire box of donkey ears went missing the day before the play. Then a kid found the intercom button during a performance and used it to send messages to everyone in the green room. The director couldn’t make it to the second performance. A scene was accidentally skipped, leading to Cat and Fox appearing on stage without their costumes, singing their songs as two random people. During intermission a game of football broke out using Geppetto’s wig as the football. I broke up a fight between two kids mere inches from going on stage, using only body language. The costume room grew so ripe with the smell of feet by the third performance that we almost had to forego costumes altogether, for the sake of everyone’s health.

And the Band-aids! Don’t get me started on the Band-aids! Behind the stage, kids kept coming up to us holding out bloody fingers and arms and legs—once, a forehead. Had the audience been paying close attention, they would have grown alarmed to see that with each new scene the actors were growing more bloodied and bandaged. We went through so many Band-aids, I had to make a line item for them in the budget.

In short, there was DRAMA.

Despite my resistance to signing up, despite the work, the headaches, the 100 e-mails each day, I miss it all. I miss the Rachels. I miss the kids singing along behind the curtain. I miss making cheesy jokes about noses in my pre-show speech. (I’d write some here, but there’s snot enough time.)

It feels kind of like the post-wedding blues. Before the wedding, before the show, there’s so much excitement and bustle, so much coming together of people, so  much pageantry and so many unforgettable moments, it’s almost like everyone gets married a little bit. Then it’s over and wham-o, you’re just normal people wearing sweatpants, sorting through apples at the grocery store and avoiding eye contact with the PTSA board members again. (One of which, I should mention, I’m married to. It makes family dinners very awkward.)

Anyway, I’m sad it’s over, even though it’s a good thing it’s over.

Still, I am not producing another play. Or going to another school game night. I mean it this time!

Leo, Age 11

Leo had a birthday last month, so this blog post feels like a late assignment. Can I still get full credit on it?


One big breath and suddenly he’s 11. Gangly, skinny, strings-for-arms Leo—the fifth grader who makes funny faces whenever the camera’s on, who runs like a newborn giraffe, and who is sweet on stuffed animals and games of physical violence.



How to sum up Leonardo da Beto, as he calls himself? Well, to start with, his eating habits could be better. He waits for dinner to be done so he can scrape it all into the yard waste then go to his room to “read,” which sounds like a whole lot of candy wrappers crinkling. In fact, all he asked for his birthday was candy. Thank goodness he got so much; now he can eat in March.

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His science experiment was about cotton candy, because of course he has a cotton candy maker. What did you think he eats for lunch?



(Originally there was a bag of cotton candy hanging in the blank spot, but he ate it.)


When I told him we were going to get cats in October, he said, “And who’s going to clean the litter box?” like he was the parent and I was the child. “I’ll clean the litterbox,” I said. “I’ll clean their litterbox, I’ll feed them, I’ll clip their nails, and I’ll play with them.” So who does Matcha choose to snuggle with?

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She wants absolutely nothing to do with me. She found a kindred spirit in Leo.

Leo sometimes gets picked last for kickball, but he still loves playing. He got a smaller role in the play this year and said, “They probably thought the bigger roles weren’t exciting enough for me.” He loves reading but insists he doesn’t. He likes soccer and videogames. He refuses to wear pants.


Leo still gets bigtime emotional now and then. He can’t be rushed and can’t be asked to do too many things at once. He has a hard time with constructive criticism. Sometimes we have to tiptoe around him.


But usually he is happy.


Really happy.


Sometimes he is blonde.


Sometimes unicorn-y.


But always, always, he is my baby because that’s what’s happens when you’re born in last place.

Or, as Leo would say, Best Place.