The boy cracked that script right in half. He read it, he absorbed it, he dreamed it, he all but ate it! He got the whole thing down to a tee. I was so very proud of his determination to succeed, but more than that, the major difficulties he had overcome to actually achieve this mammoth task.
Hydrocephalus is an absolute bastard of a condition. It doesn’t just threaten to kill you if left unattended, it will rob you of your very memories, your words, your thought processes. Something that happened less than 5 minutes ago will largely have disappeared from his memory by the 6th minute. It will slow the processes down so much it can take up to 8 weeks to process a single event or conversation, or even a question that has been posed and that’s with the aid of a shunt fitted! It has also left him with a pronounced stammer.
So, imagine now if you will, how hard it was for you to cram for your exams, to remember all the fine details, all the nuances of the subject matter that they may question you on. How hard was that? Add hydrocephalus into the mix, how hard would it be now?
He didn’t just beat that dragon, he slayed it with his bare hands and came out utterly and completely gloriously victorious. He had memorised the entire script of Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ in just two weeks.
If ever I had been in doubt as to whether he really wanted to do this, his achievement in just two short weeks had laid all of those doubts to rest. A byproduct of this intense fortnight of learning was that my brain was now also completely full up with the entire script of ‘A Christmas Carol’. It gave me a headache… just sayin..
Opening Night arrived and The Boy was AMAZING! His stage debut was utterly fabulous! He didn’t miss a line, a placement, a look or a step and his stammer had disappeared! He was Tiny Tim and I was so proud I cried buckets of tears for the joy on his face when he came on at the end to take his bow for the curtain call.
In the event, he performed the play with his fellow cast members for two weeks at the beginning of November 1999. Midway through the two weeks, an elderly lady logged not a ‘complaint’ as such, but a pointing out of a continuity issue with the production of the play to the Manager of the theatre. He in turn raised an eyebrow and then called me over.
I could see he was desperately trying to be tactful, which in itself was quite unusual for him, sarcasm was his most valued attribute and he utilised it frequently. The conversation went something like this.
Manager: This very nice lady has taken it upon herself to enlighten us with regard to a detail in the play we have overlooked. I thought as the boy is your son, you could furnish her with an explanation for why we have used the particular props we have for Tiny Tim.
I looked at the lady, she looked like she had a grey fluffy cloud on her head, little gold rimmed glasses sat over watery pale blue eyes and her mouth was set in a thin line of disapproval. Damn, don’t piss off the olds with detail people, they get mean! I smiled at her and asked what the issue was.
The lady: Well my dear, it’s very simple, if you haven’t actually read Dickens, which I have of course, you may not be aware of the issue. So, I felt it was my duty to inform you that you have too many props for the character of Tiny Tim. The little boy who is playing him is using two crutches, they are the wrong kind by the way, they are metal and would not have been invented in Dickens day, he’s also wearing two leg irons! Why you thought it was necessary to dress him this way I don’t know but Tiny Tim only used one Wooden Crutch and one leg iron that I believe was actually made of leather and wood, it got the message across then and I’m sure that it would more than suffice today. Don’t overplay it dear, he’s really quite good in the part other than costume and props.
She delivered her critique and then failed miserably to soften her criticism with a thin smile. I grinned at her. To be fair, in most cases when I grin like I did that night, people are want to run away for fear I may bite their head off, but she was brave in her conviction and I admired her for that.
Me: Thank you for being so observant, it’s appreciated, but I have to tell you, if I take away a crutch and a leg iron, which are actually called leg braces or calipers, just so you know, he will fall over. Tiny Tim is a character written as a crippled boy to get across the message of Christmas to Scrooge, the character in itself is merely a prop for the larger story. Writing him as a crippled boy ensures that message is delivered loud and clear and pulls on heartstrings to do it. My son, The Boy, on the other hand is actually disabled and his props are present on stage because they are his own. All that being said, he will be absolutely delighted to know that you thought he was really able bodied and was only playing the part of a disabled boy, so thank you again.
I smiled a very genuine smile that reached my eyes. She thought we had over-hammed it. Bloody hell! For the first time in his young life he had been seen for himself rather than as a sum total of his disabilities. That was golden!
Of course the poor little old lady was horrified at her gaff and she apologised profusely. She really was genuinely upset at the mistake she had made and I gave her a hug and told her it was all good, go tell your friends that health reasons insist that he wears both calipers and uses both crutches at all times. Bless her little cotton socks, she was mortified. She walked away shaking her head in dismay at her own mistake.
I’m not nor have I ever been of a mind to feel responsible for other peoples fragile egos and sensibilities, but I had been very careful with my explanation because that lady had touched my heart. She had seen through the metal casings that were my son’s constant companion and just seen the boy. Not only that but she thought he was quite good to boot!
THAT’S MY BOY!!