Friday, April 3, 2009

I Love You Stink Bug

Yesterday was Lily's first grade music program.  Lily LOVES music class.  She loves her teacher, her teacher loves her, and Lil just has a bad case of the jams.  So music class really rocks her 6 year old world. Incidentally, this makes her liberal arts educated mom very very proud. 

But school performances in the early grades can run the gamut from tedious to soporific, often punctuated by spontaneous student barfing.  Louis' Christmas program was tainted by regurgitated sour milk and temperatures in the gym above 90 degrees.  I couldn't take my eyes off his teacher, who conducted the balance of the program with a splash of undetected hurl on her pant leg.  

My parents rarely attended my school performances, I had no local grandparents,  and I vowed I would never let my kid stand on the risers, looking out into rows of parents without finding one of her tribe sweating with pride, suppressing their own gag reflex. 

So yesterday I went to Lily's school and took my place among the whirling video cameras and shutter clicks, to watch the show, Bugz, which featured the entire 1st grade, girls as ladybugs, boys as army ants.  

Bugz is the parable of a picnic to which all bugs are invited, except the Stink Bug, who is excluded because of his entomological  body odor problem.  Even the Maggot gets invited, because, though he's nasty, he's got no stank. Every time the Stink Bug walked on stage, the 1st grade held its collective nose.  Haughty bumble bees made him feel bad about himself.  Beetles ignored him.  Cliquey caterpillars whispered behind his back.  

Disturbing as it may have been to see dozens of 6-year old boys dressed in camouflage, marching in step and saluting as part of their ant choreography, they had it down, and looked impressive doing it.  I especially liked the part where, despite the millions of tax payer dollars, the army couldn't find their way to the picnic without the help of the mild-mannered fireflies who, with gym lights dimmed, twinkled their flashlights to light the way.  

But the real moment came when I realized that I had so identified with the Stink Bug that I was muttering things under my breath like, "Aw poor stink bug, I'll be your friend" and "You're a horrible, fat bee and I am going to swat you with my blog." and later, "Die horsefly, die!"

Then, when things were really desperate, when I was about to run on stage and embrace the stink bug with my totally overblown and inappropriate empathy, the cast breaks into the tender lyric, 'Rainbows do appear, but one thing's very clear, People Change. Things change..." as visual embodiment - a wee little 1st grader struggled dramatically under five yards of sweltering green felt. By the end of the song, the velcro scratched apart and out she came, a beautiful, sweaty butterfly.   

The power of change having washed over all the lowly bugs, they decide each to carry a giant flower with strong perfume to override the redolent tang of the offending creature.  Stink Bug attends the picnic!

It was emotionally exhausting. I'd laughed. I'd cried. I'd experienced redemption on the pedals of a lapel flower.  I'd relived my entire childhood and much of last week.  

They really must keep music programs in public schools alive.  

I'm heading out to buy flowers.


  1. I love stinkbug too, Jessie! ps your blog was all the talk at my party yesterday- can I send the link to everyone I know? xx

  2. PLEASE PLEASE let me tell everyone I know to look at your blog. It is so funny that it actually hurts to read it. The truth, you tell, like no one else. YOU ARE THE FUNNIEST SMARTEST Stink Bug sympathizer and I love your writing more than pretty much anyone else's. THat incldes famous people.

  3. I have the best friends in the world.