[Note: It’s Christmas Eve Eve, and I’m exhausted. Seabass is cranky and Mom is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, counting the nanoseconds until Daddy comes home for a long holiday break from the office. All that to say Controversy Wednesday needed an extra day to formulate. Merry Christmas!]
It’s that special time of year when lights are a-twinklin’, bells are a-jinglin’, and small children are strong-armed into bow ties, patent leather, and velvet for performances of The Nutcracker Suite, Handel’s Messiah, and various and sundry church services.
Actually, I was one of those precocious little girls who LOVED dressing up and sitting still (mostly) for a Christmas performance. I have so many fond memories of donning a stickie-outtie dress (my own term), and driving down to Santa Barbara with my mom and brother to meet my grandma for The Nutcracker ballet at the Arlington Theatre. It was an annual tradition – complete with full, live orchestra – to which I give partial credit for my lifelong love of classical music. (Thank you Mom and Nanny.)
My brother Dusty, however, was not fooled by the weak seduction of a cannon shot, a life-sized dancing rat king, or a far-too-short battle sequence. In fact, I’m not even sure he noticed any of that. He was too preoccupied with the fact that guys were wearing tights. And dancing. And BULGING all over the place.
My mom loves to recount how Dusty would hold it together, for the most part, through the ballet’s first half. At intermission, we’d grab a cookie at concessions, and try to get the wiggles out in preparation for the second half. But as the curtain parted and the dancing began again, Dusty would slowly but surely disintegrate. Despite her finely-tuned sense of propriety and regard for fellow audience members, Mom could not withstand my brother’s acute desire to roll in the aisle, bow tie hanging by a thread and hair shooting in all directions. The worst moment every year, she claims, was when the Arabian dancers took the stage. Whatever brittle interest Dusty had in the remainder of the ballet was, at that point, destroyed. I mean, to a little boy, COULD THIS SONG BE ANY SLOWER? OR MORE BORING?
My friend Andrea has a great story about her own younger brother and The Nutcracker Suite. Apparently, Jordan was not much of a fan as a little boy, either. He kept quiet – whether by force or of his own volition – through the entire ballet until the Pas de Deux at the end. As the harpist plucked the opening notes and the two dancers began twirling, Jordan could take it no longer, exclaiming – OUT LOUD – “Aaw, not again!”
Now, here’s the thing. I wholeheartedly intend to force The Nutcracker on Seabass (much to his father’s chagrin, I might add). He will own a bow tie, patent leather shoes, and will, most likely, roll in the aisle during the Pas de Deux. I feel like it’s a right of passage.
But I draw the line at dragging him along to Handel’s Messiah for a sing-along…at least until he’s old enough to read music. And even then, it’s his call as to whether he wants to join me. This might seem like a contradiction to the post I shared about my thoughts on music lessons a while back, but there’s a big difference between bringing a four-year-old to Walt Disney Concert Hall for a four-hour Baroque marathon (no joke – people do it) and bringing him to a Hallelujah chorus flash mob at Macy’s. One is a novelty for music-lovers. The other is thinly-veiled child abuse. (Which reminds me. When I worked at the San Luis Obispo Symphony, the unofficial motto of the education department was “Torturing children with classical music for five decades.”)
Enough outta me. What do you think? Do you bring (or plan to bring) your children to boring holiday cultural events? How do they react?