A Fiddler And A Sunset

(I take it all in.  The gilded and ornate details framing the stage, trailing across the lofty ceiling.  The substantial, red velvet curtain.  The glossy cover of the recently-printed program.  The musicians in the orchestra pit, plucking strings, taping bows, tuning instruments...)

I have always loved the theater, and last weekend I found myself in a packed house--breathless with anticipation for the rising of the curtain.  I was to see a production of the heart-rending, "Fiddler On The Roof;" a musical fete presented by the Utah Festival Opera Company.  I was familiar with the story, had always cherished the movie, and was thrilled to see a live performance of it.

"Fiddler" tells the story of Tevye--a Jewish milkman who talks aloud to God and misquotes "the good book" incessantly--and of his family of five daughters.  The story is told against a backdrop of impending political unrest; portraying a time in world history when Czar troops moved across Russia, evacuating Jews from their communities.

Halfway through the show, I watched as the stage lighting dimmed, creating an ethereal and reverent ambiance.  I identified the canopy immediately as cast members poured onstage like water.  Four of the men carried the white, lace cloth on long poles.  

The wedding scene.  Tevye's eldest daughter, Tzietel, weds the poor, humble tailor, Motel.  While the couple stands beneath the canopy--as is the Jewish custom--a hauntingly beautiful song titled, "Sunrise, Sunset," is sung:

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
 I don't remember growing older
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

While the ensemble sang, warm tears glided down my cheeks.  There was my mom--sitting at my right side.  She had always been "the mom"--the one to soothe the fevers and to mend the broken pieces, the balm to make everything all better.  And sometime, in the many sunrises and sunsets of my life, I had assumed that role.  

I placed my palm over my protruding belly button and felt the forceful thump, thump, thump of my unborn baby girl's kicks.  I would assume that role again with her birth, as a mother of three instead of two.  I grabbed my mom's hand and placed it on my swollen belly.

When had we grown older?

And such is the unavoidable cycle of our precious lives.  Our parents become grandparents.  We become parents.  Our own children grow up.  It seems to happen in a breath.  In the ticking seconds of the Grandfather clock.  In fleeting days.  In years that pass too quickly.  In sunrises and sunsets.

My Lilly will be seven-years-old.  She will start first grade the end of August.  She wants a Hello Kitty backpack and a new notebook.  She wants me to make her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to take for school lunch.  All of it--the backpack, the first grade, the seven years that flew by--all of it makes my heart ache with sadness.

When had she grown older? 

The scene ended.  The audience erupted into robust applause, distilling my reverie.  I hastily wiped the tears from my face.  A renewed desire to embrace each sunrise and sunset inscribed on my heart.   

It was time for Intermission. 


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