A Few of My Favorite Things

“Brown paper packages tied up with strings/These are a few of my favorite things,” June sang as she stepped out of the bathtub Thursday evening.

“You’re going to be great tomorrow,” I told her, wrapping her in a towel and kissing her on the nose.

“How do you know?” she asked.

“Because you’ve been practicing so hard,” I said.

Friday was the last day of the only week this summer when both kids had camp at the same time. As they were both in drama camps, we had two performances to attend. June was going to be Marta in a revue of songs from The Sound of Music and Noah was playing Simon in a scene from a stage adaptation of Lord of the Flies. And to top off our day of the performing arts, Beth and I had a date for dinner and a movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was playing at the American Film Institute (http://www.afi.com/). We were celebrating the twenty-fourth anniversary of our first date.

We’re about halfway through the two-week stretch of the summer I’ve been anticipating more than any other except our beach week in August. I’ve just had a week of kid-free mornings, which I split pretty satisfactorily between relaxation and working on abstracts. Next week is the only week this summer when June has camp (Music Tink—they will make their own instruments) and Noah doesn’t. I’ve been looking forward to this as much as the me-time of last week because while June and I have a lot of time alone together Noah and I don’t and he’s good company. Then next weekend, the kids are having their long-awaited weekend with Mom and Jim, while Beth and I stay in a B &B in nearby Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chadds_Ford_Township,_Delaware_County,_Pennsylvania).

Friday morning I heard one of the kids stirring just before six. I hoped it was Noah, who would read quietly until breakfast at 7:15, and not June, who would climb into bed with us and probably not go back to sleep or let me sleep. I was just about asleep again myself when June came into the room ten minutes later, announcing she’d wet the bed. Now I knew we were definitely not going back to sleep.

“Happy anniversary,” Beth mumbled sleepily as I instructed to June to take off her wet pajama bottoms and underwear and leave them in the sink, put on dry underpants and come to bed with us. Her bed could wait, I decided. We snuggled and read some books and eventually got up.

By the time we left for camp at 8:20, I’d started the dishwasher, as well as two loads of laundry, and carried the drying rack with June’s freshly laundered mattress cover to a sunny spot in the yard so it would be dry by Quiet Time, and packed June’s snack, a chore that involved actual cooking (well, boiling an egg). Even needing to go back to the house twice for forgotten items (including cucumbers from our garden, a thank you gift to the White-Tailed Deer’s dad for driving June home from camp this week), we were still early to camp. June was that excited and eager to get going. “It’s too bad Noah can’t come because this show is going to be awesome,” she predicted, though she also confessed to being “a little nervous.” I assured her Ms. Gretchen has a lot of experience with kids and shows and she would know how to put her at ease.

After I dropped June off I lingered in the rec center lobby, drinking bottled coffee and writing and listening to the children practice their songs in the nearby auditorium. I had decided to stay in the general area because I wanted to do laps at the public pool at the elementary school next door and it didn’t make sense in terms of time to go home after that. After a long swim, I returned to the rec center lobby and read the newspaper until parents (including Beth, who had a morning doctor’s appointment and had taken the whole day off) started trickling in. The drama teacher’s parents were there to watch their granddaughter in the show. They had two bouquets of pink carnations, one for Gretchen, I assumed, and one for her daughter. Gretchen’s daughter, we learned, was wearing an authentic Austrian dress, a brown jumper with embroidery (not precisely a dirndl because it lacked the apron, but it was close).

Three of June’s nursery school classmates (the Ghost Crab, Ground Beetle and White-Tailed Deer) and another Purple School alum from the class ahead of theirs, who June knew from science camp last summer, were all attending this camp, so I knew a lot of the parents. It was fun to see them and chat, though I was sorry to see the Ghost Crab’s mom, who is one week overdue with her third child, hasn’t had the baby yet. We all hope it will be soon.

Finally, it was show time. We all took our seats, and oh, the cuteness, I cannot adequately describe the cuteness. The children, all girls ages four to six, had all been cast as Von Trapp children and had been instructed to dress as they thought a Von Trapp child should. At first this was distressingly vague as I am not all that familiar with The Sound of Music. It’s possible I’ve never seen it. I’m not sure. But Google Images is my friend and I decided June’s yellow dress with the purple flowers and white bib was old school enough and even called the play clothes made of curtains to mind. The girls had interpreted Gretchen’s instructions in varying ways. A lot of them had braids and wore jumpers with blouses but a lot of them just went in the fancy dress direction. One girl was resplendent in a sparkly purple gown that looks nothing like what anyone in the film ever wears. June was probably somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of authenticity. I put her hair in pigtails because I have not yet learned to braid hair (although I suspect this may be in my future.)

The show consisted of a brief scene in which the Von Trapp children, played by campers (and one college-age assistant who played one of the boys) introduce themselves to Maria, played by Gretchen, followed by four songs, one of which was musical narration for a puppet show with sock puppets the kids had made. There was also a lot of choreography and I have to say the girls did a pretty good job knowing where on the stage they needed to sit, walk, run or dance. Because there were fifteen kids it was not imperative that they all know all the lyrics to all the songs as long as some of them were singing at any given time, which is more or less how it worked out. In the introduction scene they didn’t even need to say their lines alone as most of the Von Trapp children were played by two or three real children. June’s line was “I’m Marta. I’m turning seven on Tuesday and I want a pink parasol.” I couldn’t actually hear her over the other two Martas.

We took a video of the entire show for Noah, at his request. He’s in the process of editing the footage now. Let me know if you’d like a look when he and Beth have finished.

When the show was over, all the girls got a pink carnation from the bouquets. I’m not sure if that was the original idea, or if Gretchen decided to divvy the flowers her parents brought among all the performers. June’s is sitting in a glass of water on her bedside table now.

We went home for lunch and a nap and a little after three, we were heading out to Noah’s performance. Round House Theater (http://www.roundhousetheatre.org/) has four age groups this summer and Noah had the option to be in the nine-to-ten age group or the ten-to-thirteen group. He picked one camp in each category. This one, Acting for the Stage, was a two-week camp with older kids. They did the usual drama camp games he has loved for years and drew big pictures of how they imagined characters and settings. But they also spent a lot of time working with real scripts, which was a new thing for him. They did monologues and scenes from several plays. One day I figured out they’d been working on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead from the following clues: “It was about two people with long names. I can’t remember them. There was a lot of word play. It had something to do with Hamlet.” He was amazed when I came up with the title of the play. A liberal arts education is good for parlor tricks like that.

At the performance, campers did scenes from Lord of the Flies, Winnie the Pooh, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Diary of Anne Frank. My suspicion is Noah would have chosen The Phantom Tollbooth if they had not been assigned parts. He loves that book. Noah’s scene was from early in Lord of the Flies, while the boys are still fairly civilized and only just starting to bicker, so we didn’t see his character get mistaken for the beast and killed in the frenzy of a primal dance. Oh well. He remembered all his lines and performed well, even though in this particular scene Simon has a small part. June loved the Winnie the Pooh scene, which was done twice with different actors, and laughed both times. It made me decide to take her to see the new Pooh movie.

When the performance was over, we drove Marta and Simon home, delivering them to the care of the babysitter who was waiting for us on the front porch and then drove straight back to the same neighborhood we’d just left for a lovely dinner at Pacci’s (http://paccispizzeria.com/) and the movie. We were eating early so at the beginning of our meal we had the side patio all to ourselves, which was nice. Despite living so close for so long, we’ve never actually been to AFI. The theater is big and beautiful, just like movie theaters used to be and the movie was fun. We’re thinking of going back in a couple weeks to take Noah to see Time Bandits. (They’re doing a series of films from the 80s, which as Noah says are “really old movies.”) It felt appropriate to be seeing a movie for our anniversary, too, because not on our first date but on our second (which was the very next day–I know, very lesbian) we saw Raising Arizona at the theater in downtown Oberlin.

We don’t go out and participate in the arts as much as we used to when we were twenty (look at that photo—we were practically children!) and living in a college town or thirty and childless and living in a big city, but the arts are still important in our every day lives. The kids have both been to multiple drama and music classes and camps. We hear the sound of Noah’s snare drum and the mournful little ballads June composes all the time. I do miss having more of a cultural life and I look forward to seeing more concerts and plays and movies and museum exhibits as the kids get older, but I also have to say that watching my kids sing and act really is one of my favorite things.