I never liked Lucy.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved Lucille Ball, but when it came to Charlie Brown, I did not like Lucy.
She was crabby.
She was mean.
She was a bully.
Lucy Van Pelt’s character represented what bothered me about childhood.
In a lovely little twist of fate, my 13-year-old daughter decided to audition for the role of Lucy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
As she worked so hard on her audition, I walked the parental tightrope of encouraging her to do her best and bracing her for the possibility of not getting “her dream role,” as she came to call it.
But she did get the role of Lucy — and our whole family was walking on clouds.
I couldn’t stop smiling. The feeling reminded me of a note my mother had written me after she watched me play a game at basketball camp when I was 13. The essence of her note was that she was proud of me, but there was one line that has stuck with me all these years later. She wrote, “Even if you were a lug, I would be proud of you. But, you’re not a lug.”
That line made me smile then, and the thought of it has continued to fill my heart with gratitude through the years. I can imagine my mother consciously deciding that, in fact, her only daughter was not a lug — even though she wasn’t completely proud of my behavior throughout the game.
To explain: Long before water bottles were everywhere, we were playing basketball in July in an un-air-conditioned gym in Mississippi. Pre-game, I had fixed myself a mayonnaise jar full of ice water. During one of the timeouts, I reached for my water when a girl who hadn’t been playing decided to start drinking it. I said something to her that wasn’t filled with compassion — and my mother heard me. I happened to look in the stands and see Mom looking at me at that moment. I knew I was in for it. I had, after all, been acting a lot like Lucy Van Pelt, and my mother did not tolerate Lucy-like behavior.
Now that I have my own 13-year-old daughter, I understand the whole scenario much better.
Even in moments when she does things I know she’ll later realize may not have been the best choices, she is still not a lug.
When I watch her and the other incredibly talented actors rehearse their play set to open Thursday, I know the feeling of any parent who has ever watched a child achieve a dream.
It’s a feeling I first identified long ago as I begged my parents to read and re-read one of the few books I had in pre-school days. It was a book called Gordon and the Glockenspiel. I loved it with all my heart and had memorized each page by age four.
The book was about a boy named Gordon who wanted to be good at something. His parents tried to help him. They brought various musical instruments home because his mother loved the song Yankee Doodle and dreamed that one day her son would play her favorite song.
Gordon tried his best to play each instrument to no avail. Finally, he spotted a glockenspiel. With a little effort, Gordon was an excellent glockenspiel player. In fact, the mayor asked him to play Yankee Doodle and lead a parade.
As the band walked up the street, Gordon’s parents stood watching with pride. When Gordon appeared leading the band, his dad pointed and yelled, for all the crowd to hear, “That’s my boy.”
As a kid, I loved that line.
And next weekend, when Lucy hits the stage, if anyone happens to look my way, trust in knowing there is little doubt what words will be running through my head.
“That’s my girl.”
After all, she is not a lug, and I love Lucy.
I never liked Lucy.