Friday, December 19, 2008

God Bless Us Every One!

The crippled child struggled to his feet from his seat by the hearth. Placing his crudely carved wooden crutch beneath his left arm, he hobbled to the center of the floor. His eyes swept the room and there was a hush as he stood gazing at the people in front of him. Then with a little smile, more to himself then to the strangers, he nodded.
I stood with all the people who had been working for weeks to get to this point. Most of the cast crowded into the wings to watch what came next. I was still amazed by where we were, and by what we had been doing for the past three nights.

Six weeks earlier, a friend had suggested that I bring my son to try out for a part in a musical version of Dickens Christmas Carol called The Stingiest Man in Town, at the Ft.Bliss Dinner Theater in El Paso, Texas. On a whim, I had agreed. I dressed him in plaid pants, folded knickers style and topped it with a too big turtle neck shirt. Over that he wore a sleeveless sweater his Grandma had made his big brother. A pair of knee socks borrowed from the little girl next door and the John Denver haircut, that desperately needed trimming, completed the look. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to learning a song for the audition.

We sat and watched as several other children, all older, got up to speak their piece, answer a few questions, and sing a song. "Just do what the other kids do, Honey. "

His name was called and he joined four other children, sitting on the stage, in small folding chairs. They listened to Jingle Bells , Frosty, and White Christmas for the umpteenth time and then it was his turn.

"My name is Sage Words Cumberland. I'm 5 1/2 years old and I go to Terrace Hills School. My teacher is Mrs. Blackstone and I am a very good singer, she said so, and I can't read but I can remember real good."

"We can see that. " The casting director replied trying not to laugh,"Do you want to sing a song for us now, Sage?"

"Sure but first I have to get my chair."


Instead of turning around and picking up the small folding chair as they expected, he went back down the stairs and began to drag the heavy Captain's chair from the table.

Stifling a laugh, one of the men carried the chair up to the stage for him. Sage repositioned it a couple of times and then sat on the edge of the seat. That's when he surprised them all by singing an altered version of a Barbara Streisand song all the way through.

I'm five, I'm five.
I'm a big boy now I'm five.
I can dress myself,
I don't need mom to help me anymore,
And when I sit in my father's chair
My feet can touch the floor.


I was grinning, unable to hide my pride and delight.I never stopped being proud of him during the weeks that followed . Even when, as an afterthought and much against my will, they made me get up in the stage and sing White Christmas. I ended up being a caroler. One of my main roles during the Christmas season of 1977, was as Tiny Tim's other mom.

We practiced his lines with Mom or Dad or his big brothers reading the other parts. After three weeks, little Sagie knew every word of the play and to their embarrassment was prompting the adults when they faltered. He remembered real good.

Quickly he became the darling of the cast. There was always someone to read to him or let him doze in their laps during rehearsals. During a cast party after the dress rehearsal, the bartender made Shirley Temples for the kids . Sage informed Danny, nicely, that it was a girl's drink. Danny went back and mixed ginger ale with grenadine and two green cherries. He had invented the Tiny Tim which he served to the rest of the Cratchit brothers too. It was available at the bar for the entire run of the play.

The first three nights of the musical had gone very well and we knew we were doing nicely. We were also having fun. I glowed with pride when Sage sang his solo, the poignant I Believe in Santa Claus. It was a song about the Spirit of Christmas and the hope and faith of a child.

That night we waited. There was something magical in the air. Tiny Tim took his mark but then, instead of breaking into song, his eyes swept the audience. I could see the upturned faces enjoying the sight of this frail innocent boy as he stood there looking so vulnerable in the icy blue spot for the space of a few seconds. I watched as he smiled sweetly and nodded, the cue for the pianist to begin his music. The audience gazed at this precious child and embraced him with their eyes. They entrusted their hearts to him and accepted the magical moment he provided them. They took in the childish wisdom of the lyrics and bathed him in their love.

Backstage, the cast members gasped and stood in awe as this fragile, precocious boy launched into his song. -His Song- he had completely forgotten the words but without ever missing a beat or a note, he audaciously performed his entire solo, enchanting the unsuspecting audience with his own Sage Words.

See ya down the road,


Moe Lwin's Stuff said...

I was licking the next button when I came upon your blog.
I nice surpise.

Wishing You A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year

Karen said...

What a precious memory you have!

Anonymous said...

Does Sage remember that? I could picture it happening as I read it.So sweet and what a talented young boy... Can't wait for your next blog...