I sat in the audience in awe as my “stepson” transformed in to Charlie in the musical “Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.” He was selected to star in at by Arts in Connecticut, the Summer program he was enrolled in by his mom. For a long time, he expressed interest in being an actor. However, his ability to emote, to change his stance, and to conquer his shyness dazzled me.
As his blended family walked down to congratulate him, I wondered if he acts sometimes when he’s not in the stage. If pretending during uncomfortable interactions between us helped him hone his skills.
Normally, I don’t think of myself as an actor in any way. In fact, my fiancé often says I swing my “truths” with a sledgehammer. Yet, standing there with him I realized I have feigned an interest in or affection for each others for his sake. I have also smiled, laughed or distracted my loved ones in other ways from the pain, worry or annoyance that riddles my life each day because my chronic illness.
I tried to shake my thoughts as we walked around near Yale and ate lunch before we headed to the mall to do another escape room. We chose Zombie attack room. It was filled with medical equipment including vials, a blood pressure cuff, needles and an IV. Instead of solving clues, I put my cane down and I tested out the items as I reflected on my medical woes and efforts to hide them. When the time ran out and it was time to take the picture, I found the perfect prop, a mask.
It made me think of words by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “We Wear The Mask:”
“We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!”
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