by EMILY ORTON
Lily, Lily, Lily....If you follow Fezywig on Facebook, you may be familiar with part of this story. It has clearly struck a chord. I hope it makes you smile, but I also hope it makes you think. It certainly has me thinking about kindness, calm and going for it.
We attended the incredible May Day/Lei Day presentations of La’ie Elementary School at the covered amphitheater at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which seats about two thousand. Gorgeous live Hawaiian pre-show music inspired some of the choreographers to perform a beautiful impromptu hula while families found their seats—a peaceful aloha to what could have been chaotic for more than 700 students and their families.
The festivities opened by honoring the 8 Hawaiian Islands and the court for the event-queen, king, princesses, ladies-in-waiting, and kahili bearers. After introducing the court with a tribute to all 8 Hawaiian Islands, each grade representing a country or region of the worldwas costumed to the hilt and choreographed to state of the art surround sound music.
Erik and I kept giving each other the Are-You-Kidding-Me?! face because the performances, costumes, dancing, and props were far beyond anything we would expect from any elementary school. My phone was dead by kindergarten. It was totally worth driving an hour in island traffic to get our seats an hour early. (Extra love to our friend, Rob, who tipped us off.) We danced in our seats, clapped and cheered.
Lily noticed the performers were all barefooted on the grass stage. She slipped her shoes off and asked if she could go on stage too. Points for taking her shoes off but—No. I explained these kids had been practicing for months to perform for their families. Maybe after the show we could ask about going onstage. Big tears formed in her eyes and she buried her face in her hands. I hoped the dance and music would revive her smile soon.
Between the 4th and 5th grade performances I hustled to the restroom. I didn’t want to miss anything. Erik thought Lily was going with me because he saw her file past right behind me. But Lily had told me she didn’t need to go, so I left her in her seat and turned my attention to avoiding feet, bags, and babies as I exited my row. I thought all four of our kids were staying with Erik. And that’s where the drama comes in…
A woman sitting on our row later informed us on Facebook that Lily walked right behind me, steadying herself on this woman’s knee and giving her a huge smile. I can imagine. Lily couldn’t predict exactly what would happen next. Details like that don’t normally cloud her choices. She knew she was heading, unfettered, towards her goal of setting her bare feet on that grassy stage.
When I returned to my seat near the back of the amphitheater, I saw Lily onstage with the May Day king, queen, princesses, ladies-in-waiting and kahili bearers. You know Lily, so you won’t be surprised how enterprising she was in slipping away from us to get onstage, but we get to see gracious royalty at its best. Check out what the king does when faced with this unexpected visit.
The king and queen later corroborated Lily’s story that she said, “Your majesties,” as she appeared before them and curtsied. Then she looked for a place to sit among them and settled on a low stonewall. The fifth graders took their performances places, but I’m certain most eyes were on the unexpected drama in the court. Then the king (one of his names is literally Kingsley) stood and offered up his throne to Lily. The audience cheered.
Moments later, Erik made it to the stage and motioned for Lily to come down. She shook her head. The music for the next performance started. One man working security posted on our Fezywig Facebook page that he was particularly concerned about how to manage the situation. Erik stepped up into the court before the thrones. All I could see from my seat was that Lily joined him and I exhaled gratefully. But the video makes it clear that Erik offered his arm to Lily just as the king had escorted the queen earlier in the program. And the show—as it must—went on.
Afterwards, Lily returned to the stage to thank the king and queen. They each gave her a gorgeous lei. Lily’s hot pink dress made her easy to recognize and several people commented to us afterwards. Some said Lily was their favorite part. Others commented about Erik’s calm approach. But everyone was talking about the gracious young King Manulele.
As Lily’s mother I am often chagrinned by the consequences of her curiosity, her fearlessness, her disregard for social norms (though, she did curtsy). Even her boundless love for all others can lead to awkward situations. I want to keep her safe. I want to teach her how to operate in this world so she can be both independent and appreciated. At the same time, I can’t help but admire her tenacity and ingenuity. When she wants something, she takes the direct path. She’s not burdened by embarrassment or insecurity. She assumes that she can do anything and rejects counsel to the contrary.
Erik was a true gentleman. It would have been very easy for him to pick her up out of the throne and carry her offstage against her wishes. By treating her with respect and joining in the spirit of the program, he got an agreeable response. There is no guarantee that will work in all parenting situation, but I do believe respect and grace are more likely to elicit a peaceful response from our loved ones.
King Manulele’s actions impressed me so much. He was seated onstage in his moment of glory reigning over the festivities when an unexpected dilemma faced him in the form of a little girl—my little girl. With no adults to consult he took the responsibility that accompanied the honor of his position. He chose to extend a kindness far beyond what the little interloper deserved. That action of service in giving up his throne elevated our esteem for him (his dance was pure excellence as well). His graciousness enhanced the generous gift the entire school had prepared as we all witnessed his unstudied actions. In a chaotic world full of contention, friction, positioning and power grabbing, King Manulele showed pure kindness for a fellow being. He reminded me that we never regret being kind. Mahalo! (Thank you!)
Epilogue: We’ve been texting with the King’s mother and have plans to visit the family later this month. Lily is always helping us make friends.