Family Fun Remembered

6 Feb

Remember when our whole family did a play? It’s only been six weeks or so since the show closed, but for me the details are already fading. Husband and 9yo have moved on to other theatrical projects, leaving me and 7yo to rattle around the big, empty house at bedtime, bickering like Oscar and Felix. (“I TOLD you to hang up your wet bath towel. How many times  do I have to TELL you? And pick up all these–OW!–Legos!”)

While it was undeniably hectic and exhausting, doing a family play was also really special, something it’s easier to realize now that it’s over. It was truly the best of times, at least most of the time.

Like how we would all sing along to the local continuous Christmas music station on the half hour drive to the theater. The kids’ yowls of “Faaaallll on your kneeees!” put Martina McBride and Whitney Houston to shame.

Mandatory make-up was a pretty exciting development for both kids. My husband tells a story about watching the 9yo shellack on layers of lipstick before the dress rehearsal. After her fifth coat, he said, “OK, I think you’ve got enough.” And she snapped back, “Dad, I am actually allowed to wear make-up, and I am GOING TO ENJOY IT.”

Or the time I told my son I needed to put eyeliner on him, and he replied, “OK, let me go get the eyeliner from Dad. He’s hogging it.” To be filed under “Conversations I Hadn’t Imagined Having.”

The kids were mostly ok having me in a position of (mild) authority as the Assistant (to the) Director, but there were moments when it chafed. For example, I took the liberty of writing the whole family’s bios for the program, and submitted them without prior approval. Therefore, the 7yo’s bio, for example, read in part:

“When not playing a ‘sea urchin’, (‘No, that’s street urchin’), he likes to jump, wiggle, pull faces, skip, bounce, make loud car noises, squirm, and shimmy. Actually, he also does all those things while playing a sea urchin.”

He’s finally able to read with fair speed and accuracy, so he decoded the program himself. And then he betook his injured dignity to my husband to complain. Their exchange apparently went something like this:

7yo (pouting): “I don’t like my bio. That’s not what I would have said.”
Husband: “Well. (Pause.) Want to wear my top hat?”
7yo: “No. (Pause.) Yes!”

7yo was the big casting question mark, because he was drafted into the show for the relative convenience of his parents’ childcare needs. But, wow, did he take to the theatrical life with a quickness. I was helping him with his first change on opening night, and his enthusiasm for performing in front of a warm, sold-out crowd of grown-ups was impossible for him to contain. He burbled in my ear the whole time, a moist impassioned stream of, “Oh it’s so much fun with the audience I really really really like being on the stage it’s just so SO fun to do a play I really like it I like the people looking at me oh I’m just having SUCH a good time!!!” Mikey really, REALLY likes it.

The run of the show afforded many opportunities for backstage bonding. I’ve been backstage knowing my kids were in the audience before, but I’d never been backstage with my kids. I paged the curtain for 9yo’s first entrance as the Ghost of Christmas Past, which meant we waited together during the scene between Scrooge and Marley that preceded it. We became so familiar with the text of that scene that we could do a full lip-synced performance of it, complete with overwrought gestures and dramatic facial expressions. Some parents/assistant directors might have chosen to leave their kid/actor alone to prepare, but. Uh, it was fun?

Another ritual I loved was waiting for the curtain call with my 7yo. I wore a huge billowing cloak in my capacity as Ghost of Christmas Future, and my little sea urchin would escape the chill backstage by creeping under it and resting his head against my stomach. To the casual observer it would have looked like one head, one black pyramid of body, and four feet.

Speaking of the curtain call, 9yo broke a long, drowsy silence on one post-show drive home by sighing happily from the backseat, “My faaavorite part of the show is the curtain call.” It’s not just Lady Gaga who lives for the applause.

Towards the end of the run we had a couple of fun mixed-age cast parties. At the close of the first one, the cast kids surprised the adults by coming downstairs, after a long interval of loud bumps and muffled laughter, to present the opening musical sequence of the show, a cappella and practically note perfect, a feat the adults in the cast took weeks to pull off. At another, I got to watch my 6-then-7yo get serenaded for his birthday in three part harmony by the cast, while he basked in the glow of the candles atop a gorgeous cake made with love by another family involved with the production. I’ve never seen a more ecstatic birthday boy.

Closing night of the run, the family stumbled home together to endure a weary, tearful bedtime. As my husband kissed her goodnight, I heard my daughter choke out the question, “Daddy, is it always this hard?” And he replied, “Only if you’re lucky.”

"This way to enlightenment, my crotchety friend." Photo by John J. Stoll

“This way to enlightenment, my crotchety friend.” Photo by John J. Stoll

"Look! Over there! Your mortality!" Photo by John J. Stoll

“Look! Over there! Your mortality!” Photo by John J. Stoll

The family that plays together. Photo by Kylie!

The family that plays together. Photo by Kylie!

7 Responses to “Family Fun Remembered”

  1. kayzap February 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    are you sending this out for publication? k

    • amomynous2 February 6, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

      I have no objectivity as to whether it would interest a wider audience… Do you think I should?

      • ma sullivan February 6, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

        Yes, you should. This is a terrific and beautifully written piece, and it describes a challenging yet challenging family experience. I cann ot imagine any family publication not dying for this.

      • Charlotte Drummond February 7, 2014 at 3:00 am #

        YES! Speaking as someone who has never experienced anything like that (ALL aspects of that), it was a wonderful, wry, joyous celebration of love on both sides of the curtain.

  2. amomynous2 February 7, 2014 at 3:51 am #

    Golly, y’all. Thanks. I really appreciate the support, and the suggestion!

  3. The Coconut Girl February 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    Love this, Miller. It’s rare to find an activity that everyone in a family can do together and be equally engaged & challenged. I feel the theater bug coming on!

    • amomynous2 February 7, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      Yes, it surprised me how nice it was to all work together on something. Team Family. 🙂 XOX

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