I had reason last Saturday to wake up early. And not wake-up-early-because-I-had-to, but the more unusual and exhilarating wake-up-early-because-I-want-to. For I had a 10:00 date, not with my husband, but with two other men, a chauvinistic backwoodsman and a hairy tantrum-throwing monster…
That’s right, I had my very own ticket to the live stage performance of “Beauty and the Beast.”
What made this particular outing unusual in the first place is that I went unaccompanied by any of the inhabitants of my home. My Mom came to pick me up, and I walked out of our front door with no children in tow, no diaper bag on my arm, and most notably, no sweating and flustered frenzy as my crowning glory. In fact, after I woke up an hour before our departure time, I found myself struggling to fill in the time. I have become a master at fixing my hair, putting on my make-up and eating my breakfast lickety-split and so it was downright luxurious to feel the morning’s stillness, and to pitter-patter about with nothing much to do but add a little more rouge here and drink a little more coffee there.
As Gideon is our early riser, as well as a big fan of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast movie (he just told me last week that Gaston is his “favorite bad guy”), I did not tell him where I was going or why I was wearing real clothes AND earrings at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. He gasped in awe when I walked into the room with my bejeweled headband on (he thought it was a tiara, but I promise I stopped wearing those approximately five years ago), but when he saw that his Grandmother was there to pick me up, he assumed we were going to the grocery store. And horrid coward that I am, I did not correct him…
We did, however, stop to pick up my two eldest nieces, Abigail and Anna, and their Mama, my sister-in-law, Amy. Why did they get to go, but not Gideon, you ask? Well, for starters, this was their birthday gift from my Mom, and for enders, these little girls can be counted on to, at the very most, completely enjoy the show, or at the very least, refrain from rolling in the floor in public agony if they do not enjoy the show. I very badly wanted to experience this day with my little man, but would he have sat, transfixed, by the music, the costumes and the fairy-tale?…
Or would he have decided midway through the show to mutiny by laying on the floor with his chin in his hands (what he did at our last professional photographic session), or worse, gone completely mad with boredom and claustrophobia? There is just no way to know with ol’ Gid the Kid. And therein lies the rub.
But as much as I missed my own children the minute I closed the front door (I could hear Rebekah singing “Mama…” from her crib upstairs!), it was actually quite nice to hop in the passenger seat as easy as you please, no carseats to buckle, no “stuff” to pass out, no responsibility at all really, and it was also nice to spend some concentrated time with my two eldest nieces, Abigail Grace and Anna Ruth.
Abigail was the first baby I was ever around. In fact, we were more than neighbors during my senior year of college. Her bedroom was right next door to mine, and I used to race her parents to fetch her when she cried in the middle of the night. On countless afternoons I came home from class and we would fall asleep together on the couch, a blanket on my bottom half, Abigail on my top half. We were soulmates from the very beginning, 22 years apart, yet deeply understanding of one another, and I’ve always been able to read her and know exactly what is running through that brain of hers. She is nearly 7 years old now, and although it goes without saying that I love having children of my own, I sometimes miss the time I used to have to dote solely on this amazing girl. We were inseparable for so many years, and now even when we’re together, I am tending to my offspring and taking their pictures and looking out for them. I miss my Abigail. And so it was a sweet day to spend walking alongside her, holding her hand and more closely observing how she has grown and changed.
And then there is Anna…I was not as heavily involved in her infancy, as she was born two weeks after Gideon in a state that was 10 hours away from us. But this little doll of a girl, with her ever-changing personality, is grabbing more of my heart every day, especially since, thankfully, she lives just down the street from us instead of in Kentucky. While Abigail spent her toddler years playing tea party and tap-dancing, Anna was a little fireball, fearless and active. However, she has taken a surprising turn this past year, becoming a bit of a bookworm, seemingly always with a pencil and paper in hand, happy to play quietly and calmly by herself. And she absolutely melts anyone who looks at her with her extraordinary eyes and aim-to-please-you smile. “Cute” doesn’t even begin to describe her, and although she and Gideon weren’t the fastest of friends when their worlds collided two years ago, they are becoming quite the pair in their old age…although I haven’t divulged the secret to him that Anna has her sites set on him for a husband. Nothing good could come of his knowing, as he would either run for the hills…or agree!
But back to our outing.
I had my typical English muffin with red plum jam and two cups of coffee before I left the house, but somewhere between my home and the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, I started to get nervous that maybe I should have eaten a bit more. I pictured myself, six months pregnant, elbow-to-elbow with the other audience members, knees nearly touching the seats in front of me, in a shaky state of claustrophobic pregnancy hunger (Gideon gets it from somewhere!). I really didn’t want my first time to publicly stroke out to be in such a grand room during such a grand show, with nary a husband or father in sight. The very thought of it made me, well, downright shaky.
However, upon our arrival, I found that the concession stand was just that…a concession stand that sold mostly…candy. I didn’t think that would help much with any potential light-headedness so I used my brain and picked the best of the litter, a PayDay. At least it had peanut butter in it, and is fully dressed in peanuts, which are a member of the meat family, are they not? So in a sense, I was eating a meat bar. Regardless, it was the first time I’ve ever had a PayDay at 9:45 in the morning, and my quick consumption of it made me look like a caricature of a pregnant woman.
After I swallowed my meat bar and took the time to look around me, I was shocked by the sea of golden yellow dresses in the room…you wouldn’t believe all the little girls dressed as Belle! I have to admit it was very cute, but it also kind of trivialized the way we dote on our own individual children and family members. We’ve all been in that situation before…on Halloween, at birthday parties, on really any rite-of-passage event where it becomes glaringly and immediately evident that our children or our nieces or nephews are not the only ones on the planet or the only ones who are adorable or funny or talented or smart. I am sure that each mother who decked her baby girl out as Belle that morning was just a tiny bit disappointed to see that there were at least 100 other mothers who had the same idea. I made a mental note to dress Rebekah as…Rebekah…should I ever have the pleasure of taking her to a show starring someone as adored as Belle or Dorothy or Cinderella, not because it wouldn’t be precious, but because I like to stick out like a sore thumb. You know, the only one not in costume. (We’ll save the costumes for a show where no one else will come dressed in character, like Fiddler on the Roof…I’ll be Golde, she can be Tzeitel…)
And it was during our slow descent up the crowded stairwell, surrounded by baby Belles, that I knew beyond the tiniest shadow of a doubt that I had made the right decision in leaving Gideon at home. The only thing my interesting son dislikes more than a nosebleed is a large crowd…he easily grows hysterical in the noise, in the bumping, in the shoulder-to-shoulderness of oh so many strangers; he would have definitely been “out” before we even made it “in” to the theatre. Good choice, Mrs. Gore!
And oh my…once inside that theatre, when the show finally began, the magic of Beauty and the Beast was as contagious and inspiring as it was when my Mom took me to see the film version on the big screen as a young elementary schoolgirl. The acting, the singing, the costumes, the lighting, the set, and the nostalgia of one of the most beautiful and entertaining stories I’ve ever known were equally enjoyable, mesmerizing from beginning to end. It would be safe to say that I (along with the middle-aged gentleman behind me) laughed louder than anyone else in the entire Performing Arts Center, and probably much more frequently than called for. And during the finale of the song “Be our Guest” when streamers and confetti shot out of the ceiling…well I just nearly shot out of my chair!
In fact, the entire show brought out all kinds of whackadoo things in me, three if I’m keeping count…
1. I was embarrassingly jealous of the lead actress, even finding myself criticizing her heighth and her face, when in truth, she was the perfect representation of Belle. In my initial green-eyed estimation, she should have been a bit taller and looked a bit more like…me. Which led me to the realization that this was probably my dream role.
2. I did manage to get over my initial jealousy and to admit the truth of the matter, that Belle had been perfectly cast, even managing to feel happy for the young actress whose children and stretch marks did not ruin her performing career, once again becoming the somewhat kind pastor’s wife who realizes that her voice and her stature and her talents are perfectly suited for the life she lives…but that did not stop me from having to cover my mouth with my jacket to refrain from singing not just out loud, but very loudly out loud, especially during the “Kill the Beast” song. Seriously. I was literally holding my mouth shut, and if I had been a fraction bolder or crazier (prayer request: please pray that that never happens), I would have just stood up and joined in. Don’t you doubt me for a minute.
3. It took just as much restraint to keep from putting my head in my hands and weeping, not necessarily when the Beast and Belle found that their true love conquered all, but when Chip, transformed from a teacup back into a little boy, ran across the stage and into the arms of his joyous mother, Mrs. Potts. It done me in. If I didn’t know it before, I definitely know it now…I am 100% pregnant.
All that to say, I don’t know who had more stars in their eyes at the show’s conclusion, Abigail, Anna, or their loony-tune Aunt. The magic of our fairy-tale experience carried us through the rest of the day, even through a dreadfully long and overly warm lunch experience at a nearby Italian restaurant…
And so what’s the moral of this story?
I’m not sure, except that maybe Small Elephant needs to get out more often.
Regardless, Small Elephant, like the good elephant she is, will NEVER FORGET her outing to the theatre. I raise my trunk to you, Beauty and the Beast. And even to you, diminutive should’ve-been-my-understudy Belle…
*Small Elephant is the pregnant and large version of Mrs. Gore who comes out every two years or so to entertain the world, to torture her husband and to eventually bring forth another interesting baby version of a human being before returning to her former identity. To read more about her, see ‘Mother Hen Paints the Fence’ and ‘Mother Hen Paints the Fence Some More’…or stay tuned!!