Last Saturday, we went to London to see Matilda. My husband was particularly keen, as our daughter has been playing him the My Big Telly song for years. He adores it. I wasn’t that sure to be honest. There are so many other plays I want to see and, having read the book to children years ago, I didn’t think it was necessarily the best choice. How wrong I was.
What a show! So many magical moments, so much creativity crammed together on one piece of stage. It was breath-taking. About half way through, the song When I Grow Up began and I found that my face was wet. This could have been due to the astonishingly moving melody and words. Or that, thanks to my daughter, I had my own hearing support system – linked directly to the actors’ microphones, so that, for the first time in years, I could hear everything. Or it might have been lunch, a hefty pizza, eaten at speed in a packed and sweaty restaurant while keeping an eye out for said daughter and partner who, bless them, were stuck on a bus in traffic.
But there was a certain amount of surreptitious nose blowing around me so it probably wasn’t the latter (unless they’d all been in the pizzeria – quite likely).
I’ve played the song several times since; it’s achingly beautiful . Not just the melody and lyrics but the way the children perform and sing, as only children can, with poignant innocence and a simple trust in the ultimate all-rightness of things. Perhaps they’re born with an innate sense that one day, on the other side, it actually will be.
If you haven’t heard the song, you might find you also get the chills. You can click under the photo to listen.
Somehow the words capture their eternal optimism, their trusting natures, their extraordinary hope –
‘When I grow up
I will be brave enough to fight the creatures
That you have to fight beneath the bed
Each night to be a grown-up…’
I remember thinking that. When I’m older I’ll be braver. I thought when I was the age I am now, I wouldn’t be scared of anyone or anything. But what I’ve realised, is that bravery has nothing to do with fear. To be brave is to do things even though you’re afraid. Bravery is not letting fear stop you.
‘When I grow up
I will be tall enough to reach the branches
That I need to reach to climb the trees
You get to climb when you’re grown up…’
It’s not that children don’t experience tragedy. I’ve met some who’ve suffered enormously. But because they have the gift of living in the moment, hope somehow bubbles back relentlessly to the surface and life is full of possibility again.
That’s why I’ll work with kids ’til I drop. Every day, they remind me what matters in life – kindness, forgiveness, curiosity. Along with a conviction that my next ice cream, no, my next moment will probably be the best thing I ever experience.
The wisest way to live, in a way, may be not to grow up at all.