“*Ava would love if you could make it to the play today. It’s at 2 at the school.”
When that text rolled into my phone, I knew I had to make it to the play. I missed *Ava and I missed that school. She had worked so hard on her part in the Willy Wonka musical and I wanted to support her. There was also someone else on my mind, but I tried to push him aside, to not get my hopes up.
I took a deep breath as I pulled into the parking lot, excited to see my old campers, especially *Ava. The thought of seeing him made me nervous, I was disappointed in myself as I haven’t been there for him lately. I’ve been too busy to check in, and I’m disgusted with myself as I realize that he has been alone in the world.
As I sit waiting for the play, I scan the crowd for that tousled brown hair or a glimpse of those ice blue eyes. I feel a lump in my throat as I survey the room and don’t see him.
The woman next to me hands me a playbill and I read it to pass the time. I smile as I see *Ava’s name in print as one of the leads. I can’t wait to see her perform.
I continue reading as I see more familiar names and grin. Then my heart stops. In print under “Oompa Loompa Chorus” is his name.
The entire play, I cheer for *Ava while I scan the stage for him. When I finally see him, he doesn’t see me.
He has to know I’m here for him. I feel my feet carrying me closer to the stage. We lock eyes, and for a moment his face goes blank. I feel heartbreak surge as I realize he must not recognize me. But then, I see my favorite smile as his face lights up. He shouts my name and runs off the stage and into my arms.
After the play, I am filled with warmth, as I walk out of the school, I hear my name. I turn, and he’s running towards me. He jumps into my arms and whispers, “how did you know I was here?” I told him that *Ava told me and he smiles. I put him back down and smile at him. I tell him I love him and he tells me he loves me.
His teacher is calling his name, and he has to go. He looks at me one last time and says “thank you for being here for me. I didn’t know anyone was cheering for me.”
In that heartbreaking moment, I realized I was his only cheerleader at the play. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude, as this is surely the work of God. Who else could’ve put me in the exact right place at the perfect time to remind this sweet boy that I am always here for him.
One last hug and we separate. As I leave the school parking lot, I can’t wipe the smile off my face.
Sometimes parents are amazed at what I do for their kids. I know that not everyone comes to school plays and baseball games, but I truly feel that I am the lucky one. Parents should be amazed at what their kids can do for me and the other staff who are lucky enough to experience their love.
*names have been changed for privacy