I saw Wicked over the weekend with some good girlfriends. I was a theater major in college (the first time around) and it had been an embarrassingly long time since I had seen a live show of any kind. Musical theater is one of my first loves, and Wicked didn’t disappoint.
I was unclear of the storyline heading into the theater. I had a fuzzy idea it was something to do with the Wizard of Oz, and I knew they had sung a few of the songs on Glee, but that was my only knowledge.
So when, in the first few minutes, the lead character is ridiculed and shunned for being different, I cried.
It’s such a universal story, isn’t it? The ugly duckling story. Who of us hasn’t had a moment (or several) of feeling unloved, like you don’t belong? I’ve always been sensitive to the excluded, because I have spent much of my life feeling like I didn’t belong.
This time, when I heard the story, I cried not only for my own pain, but for the pain of my child.
Jett has a disease/condition/syndrome/whatever you want to call it that is characterized by not fitting in. Not belonging.
The ugly duckling in me aches for the ugly duckling in him. That pain is the reason I ask every day “who did you eat lunch with?” “who did you play with at recess?”. That pain is the reason I rejoice when he has a happy answer. And it’s the reason I hurt when he replies “nobody”.
My child doesn’t literally have green skin. And thankfully, no one experiences him as wicked. But like Elphaba, friends are few for my son.
Jett, too, will have his swan moments. Those precious times when all is right, and you belong so completely to the minute you are living. I wonder, though, how does his Asperger brain experience it? Are the hurts the same for him as they are for me? Am I making my own ugly duckling thoughts his?
He had a field trip on Friday, and I asked him who he sat with on the bus. “Nobody” was his reply. My stomach ached. I went one step further…”So who was your buddy?” “I didn’t have one.” The pit grew deeper. I tried once more, quietly. “So how was the field trip, then, honey?”
“Great! It was one of the best field trips I’ve ever been on!”
In his mind the awesome-ness of seeing a blacksmith make not one, but two, kinds of knives more than made up for any company, or lack thereof, on the bus.
Maybe he experiences his green skin differently than I do. Actually, I’m sure he does. And maybe, just maybe, watching him learn to navigate his differences, his ugly duckling moments, will help me learn how to navigate mine.
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
“For Good” Wicked, Original Broadway lyrics