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Behind a dream fulfilled is a parent in the wings.

Byline: Diane Monaco For The Register-Guard

Three times in the past year, I've heard the announcement, "I got the part, Mom!" The exhilarating news reaches my ears through the cell phone; it comes to me between exuberant breaths. She's high on life. Honestly, her enthusiasm is positively contagious. I can't help revel in her success because it is satisfying knowing that your child is living life to her full potential by turning those childhood imaginings into a reality.

If anyone could achieve her vision, in one of the most competitive venues on Earth, it is my daughter. She has a determined personality with a spicy edge to it. She has the spirit and guts of her Italian-American great-grandmother; it is bittersweet for those of us who knew her namesake.

As a result of the good news, we plan a quick trip to Chicago to watch my daughter take the stage. This time, it will not be a dance performance but acting. She's a performing artist. This artistic flare is embedded in every bone of her body.

I recognized this aspiration to entertain early in her life. When she was 5 years old, she used to dance in a pink leotard or her favorite electric-blue skirt, stomping around in her white cowboy boots. She turned the living room into a performing arts center by strategically transforming her stuffed animals into audience members. She danced and belted out songs with large gestures and funny facial expressions, uninhibited by this obviously captive audience.

Her baby brother was her biggest fan. He was charmed and enamored by this live-in entertainer. She sang, danced and acted out complete scenarios with beginnings, middles and ends (or not). He laughed and kicked his legs with delight. She blew him kisses and bowed deeply.

Fast-forward 15 years. Needless to say we nurtured her passion, thus we are traveling again to the city.

It is early Monday morning. All is arranged. If everything goes as planned, we should arrive in plenty of time for the evening show. Reservations are made for the celebratory dinner after the play at a posh, Rush Street restaurant. I am so psyched!

It's one of those incredibly warm, gorgeous days we get once in a while during early spring in the Willamette Valley. My mood is excellent, I'm bustling around the house and trying to get my sleepy son motivated to get ready for school.

I glance at the television. I nearly choke on my organic wheat bread smothered with Oregon strawberry jam as the weather woman cheerfully blurts out the forecast: A snowstorm is headed toward Chicago.

Later that day, I look up from my gardening project and gaze at the Pacific Northwest sapphire-colored sky. It's almost too warm for a jacket. It is almost incomprehensible that the rest of the nation is still freezing.

I call my daughter and ask her, "How's the weather?"

She's a bit miffed at me. She says, "Mom, you are such a worry wart. They are used to the snow in Chicago; it snows all the time."

"You will not have a problem getting into O'Hare," she says reassuringly. "It is a major airport, you know."

What do I know? I know that we don't even drive in Eugene when it snows, let alone fly in airplanes. Snow is for the mountains, not for where you live.

My transplanted East Coast husband knows better. He says to me, "Maybe we should leave Tuesday night?"

In response, I look at him and give him silence. He shrugs his shoulders and says, "I'm just sayin'."

That's all he says. Come departure day, I wish that he'd said more. But he knows there is no arguing with me because I have our agenda written in stone and our schedule is stubbornly embedded in my brain.

Onward to Wednesday, as I nearly have a panic attack at the Portland airport when I discover that our flight has been delayed for two hours.

My husband tries to reassure me: "Don't worry about it." He recognizes the signs of frustration on my face. "You need to stay positive."

I lash out dramatically: "You've been living in Eugene too long."

Well, you get the picture. He very wisely finds the nearest coffee stand, sips coffee at a corner table, puts his feet up and starts making business calls.

I find his calm behavior a bit annoying. He's supposed to be the uptight New Yorker; I'm the mellow Eugene person.

He travels all the time for business - he's exasperatingly composed. I can't sit still. I take a walk to our gate.

Alas, what do I see on the monitor? What do I hear over the loudspeaker? Our plane is leaving on time after all. I am vindicated.

Our plane does arrive in Chicago on time. But we have to wait for our gate to clear. For me, it might as well be purgatory.

Miraculously, our luggage arrives at the baggage claim area in less than five minutes. The taxi is easily hailed, and we luck out with a sympathetic cab driver who doesn't dally along in the slow lane.

In a whirlwind, we ditch our luggage at the hotel. My husband returns to his East Coast roots and hands the doorman a crisp $20 along with strict instructions.

Breathless, we arrive at the theater only a few minutes into Act One, Scene One. Luckily, the director happens to be out in the lobby area; she takes pity on the two of us and escorts us into the theater during a transition in the play.

As we enter the dark theater, I set my eyes upon the stage and focus in on her petite frame. There she is, alone, under the spotlight center stage - my daughter, a beauty, an actor.

She is crying, or rather sobbing. Her character has discovered her father has just been killed.

As a parent, it is a bit disconcerting, if not a little surreal, to see your child hysterically mourning. She is pretty convincing, and I'm a tough critic.

My composure sinks in as my heart stops beating at warp speeds. I acknowledge that those convincing tears and well-delivered monologues are the result of hard work, talent, dedication, a small fortune for her education and many plane tickets.

Seeing her on the stage, on this exhausting day, makes the sacrifices that our family has made worth the results. Because, whatever role she decides to play on the stage or in life - she will always take with her the satisfaction of fulfilling a dream.

In the magical sanctity of the theater, my daughter once again captures her audience; all are mesmerized. She moves many to tears. I silently cry with them; in relief - with contentment - in admiration.

Diane Monaco is a free-lance writer from Eugene.

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Title Annotation:Oregon Life
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 20, 2008
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