Little did I know that the 2nd grade play, “Pandora’s Box,” would leave me with much to think about all afternoon. But that’s the gift of great theater–it stays with you. Even when the actors are quite wiggly and need to speak up a little.
We all know the story of Pandora’s Box, right? Or we think we do. Pandora’s husband tells her not to open the box so, naturally, it’s the only thing she wants. He hides it from her–she sneaks around looking for it. He falls asleep, she opens the box and unleashes every awful thing out into the world. Curiosity leads to misery and suffering in a world turned sour. Sounds a lot like the apple, the serpent and a certain unclad couple in paradise, amirite?
That’s the story I remembered, but the play Mrs. Corbett’s class put on today was far more nuanced. Turns out, it was a fix from the start (this next part is stolen from the program):
Zeus summons Hephaistos to make a beautiful woman, whom he named Pandora (which means all-gifts). Zeus sent Pandora down to Earth and gave her as a bride to Epimetheus. Also, Zeus sent Pandora with a little box, with a big lock on it. He said not to ever open the box, and he gave the key to Epimetheus. Pandora was very curious about what was in the box. She begged Epimetheus to let her open it, but he always said no. Finally, one day, he fell asleep and she opened the box.
Oh! Out of the box flew every kind of trouble that people had never known about before: sicknesses, and worries, and crimes, and hate and envy and all sorts of bad things. Pandora was very sorry now that she had opened the box. She tried to catch the bad things and put them back in the box but it was too late.
That box filled with demons could be my own mind. While I sat there in the school cafeteria waiting on the play to begin, I struggled with envy (Mary was sitting beside me and she’s so pretty and confident looking). All the other mothers are so young and vibrant. I struggled with sickness, snurfling and snorking with allergies. I had worries–next on the agenda after the play was Carlos’ 4-yr-old doctor visit, with lots of vaccinations to spring on him. And speaking of vaccinations, I struggled with anger because are we really having to worry about measles and shit again? But I digress.
Above all, I struggled with letting my kid be herself. While the other actors were saying their lines, there was a strange amount of commotion emanating from behind the curtain where my daughter was standing. She was bumping and twisting and smacking the curtain (and the massive white paper column attached to it) with such gusto that Mrs. Corbett had to climb up on the stage during the performance to shush her. That’s my kid. Yup. She was playing the role of Anger, and she did a great job! She had fun with it and projected back to the cheap seats. I guess “Commotion” wasn’t a role or she would have been a shoo-in.
Like Pandora worrying over the box, sometimes the best solution for me is just to LET IT BE. Parenting Vivi can be like that.
So there I sat, recording the whole show on my phone because G couldn’t be there, and wrestling with my own demons inside my head. Then something lovely happened that I didn’t expect.
After all the awful things had flown out of the box, announced to the audience who they were (through the authentic Greek masks they had made) and exited stage right, Mary’s daughter flitted out onto the stage wearing a pair of fairy wings and a peacefully sweet expression. She danced around the broken-hearted Pandora and announced: I am HOPE.
It was such a delightful surprise for the play to end on this note, but I was surprised to see a fairy pop up after all that misery. I checked my program:
But the very last thing to fly out of the box, as Pandora sat there crying, was not as ugly as the others. In fact, it was beautiful. It was HOPE, which Zeus had sent to keep people going when all the nasty things got them down.
That was the part of Pandora’s story that I had forgotten. Along with all the misery comes just enough hope to keep you going. I almost cried, right there in the cafeteria.
So thank you, 2nd Grade Spectrum class, for sharing what you’ve learned about ancient Greece. Thank you, Mrs. Corbett for putting up with my daughter’s commotion. Thank you, young spirits, for teaching me something I might have known once but had forgotten.
Thank you, Hope.