Last week Jack and I went to catch the final performance of The Women of Lockerbie by Deborah Brevoort. Central High School’s One Act team selected the play this year as their performance piece. Jan Thompson and Elaine Sheldon, director and choreographer, called in Jack to coach the team on Scots dialect and word choices.
Normally high school directors will let dialect go, Jan says, but since Jack was around….
It was love at first sight, between Jack and the students. The play is intense, set seven years after the crash when the investigations and recriminations are over, but the women in Lockerbie still find their lives in pieces from the trauma of that time. The women describe in graphic detail picking up body parts, seeing the sky on fire, having nowhere to put the grief of Americans who come seeking solace, or their own blame for America shooting down the Iranian airliner that led to Lockerbie as revenge.
The play is based on the true story of Lockerbie’s women petitioning to have 11,000 pieces of clothing, gathered from the crash sites and investigations, turned over to them to launder and return to the families of those on the flight. Families who never received bodies, because of the nature of the bomb and crash. They wanted to bring closure to a terrible time, but they also wanted to bring healing, mother to mother, woman to woman.
That part of the play, subtle though it might have been, was not lost on the high school students. Each time the play ended, the actors were still crying. The terrible sense of loss it carries, the recognition that we are sharing a world where we might have to suffer bad things because of others’ decisions, and the bittersweet win of the women being given the clothes of the crash victims, these are heavy things. The kids carried them so well.
What people may not recognize, unless they’re married to someone from Somewhere Else, is how much everyday life revolves around not bringing up the differences between life Here and There. Or the ways in which nationalities (or nationalism) divide us.
The affirmation of the high school students to my husband, shrieking and clapping and yelling his name, each time he was recognized as their dialogue coach, heals what others have said: he was a dirty foreigner who wouldn’t say the pledge of allegiance; he didn’t deserve to vote, let alone run for office; he didn’t have to pay taxes because he was using foreign money laundering. Silly stuff in a hatemongering world. Small politics we dismissed from our minds. Emphasis on small.
But these kids, they embraced Jack as they embraced a play about world sadnesses and cracks in the walls of our defenses, airplanes that fly over them, feelings that one cannot find a way to wash away. Except by affirming kindness.
I loved seeing Jack honored by the younger generation, who don’t play the games the older ones might want to teach them. I am sorry for high school students in this era who are inheriting a nation divided, a cowardly new world to have such leaders in it, but I’m so proud of them for not letting hate have the last word.
It wasn’t just a play. It was an affirmation that the future has some bright spots–as well as some bright young minds–in it. Go forth and be kind, kids. The world needs what you’re bringing it.
And: thanks for making my husband feel good about what he contributed. He is a man of many gifts, and I’m so glad he got to use some of them with and for you.
Wendy, thank you so much for posting such a lovely affirmation. I needed to be reminded that our young people have the resilience to find light in this dark world!
I’ve been preoccupied with family heath issues for a while and haven’t kept current with this blog, but I’m so glad I read this today! I think it’s easy to forget, or not even be aware of, who among us, our friends, neighbors, acquaintances and so many good people we don’t even know, are being hurt by the climate that’s been created these past couple of years. tt was wonderful to read about this experience for Jack, the girls and everyone else involved, and gives me hope.
While I don’t always feel hopeful about the present I do feel hopeful about the future when I read posts like these and see how aware and involved young people are. Thank you for sharing and I’m glad Jack finally got his due!
Love your essay! Love that your husband was honored by these kids after being dishonored by adults who should know better. Love the gifts he brings to this country!
Wendy, I read your posts off and on – won’t say everyday but often. This one touched my heart. It is good to see the potential in our next generation isn’t it. We so often hear about the young people who cause problems and not much about the ones who will be carrying on the good in our country. Good luck as you begin your new adventure in Wytheville. Good to hear Jack was honored too.
How wonderful. A happy story in spite of the the sadness of hearing that anyone might say anything negative to Jack.
Wendy, I am proud of Jack and proud of them! How incredibly fortunate that Jack had this opportunity to help shape both the actors and the next generation for good. We need many more like him!
My FB cover-to-cover (as if such a thing were possible) the immense contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of his many immeasurably wise quotations: “We must accept finite disappointment without losing infinite hope.” Your immeasurably wise words attest to the possibility of such infinite hope. Thank you.