Last night I had the fine privilege of seeing Lily Tomlin live.
I’ve always admired her from afar – who could forget Ernestine? – but I was not at all familiar with her stand-up skits. Last night, she performed a skit about her second grade teacher, Ms. Sweeny. In this piece, Tomlin managed to capture the naivety of childhood — its excitement, its vulnerability, and its terror — and as most brilliant performers do, she was able to conjure up these emotions in her audience.
Watching 6-year-old Lily, we remember what it was like on our first days of school — those days when everything was new, we were pushed out the door prepped for battle in our new dresses, lunch boxes, and pencil cases, and we felt the whole world was watching us. Then there were our teachers, and if we were lucky enough to have our own Ms. Sweenys, we remember the reverence we would have paid her — this attractive young woman whom you spent 8 hours every day with by whose rules you must abide. I’m sure everyone remembers their first (what would now be called) girl crush. These first teachers of ours were generally the objects of our affection — the almost aching desire we had to please them, to enkindle some spark of interest, some rapport with them so that you somehow stood out from the rest of your faceless peers. Lily Tomlin just gets it, and watching this piece last night, I felt a little bit of my heart break — for all those sensitive kids out there who are still too young to hide their unabashed adoration for their idols. And for their teachers — know that each day you get up in front of your class full of babies that you are holding puddles of water in your hands.