Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ahhh, Culture!

This afternoon my two boys and I attended the matinee performance of a certain midwestern ballet company. The company debuted two new pieces, and restaged a classic by a modern (as in modern dance) choreographer. The lineup was too tempting, so I asked the boys if they wanted to go with me (not recommended for children under 5, said the website). The boys and I at the ballet, that's a great old school cultural event, I thought, patting myself on the back for such a wonderful stroke of parenting genius. We spent the travel time to the theatre discussing manners - the do's and don'ts when attending a live performance. Don't make loud noises, don't run, do stay in your seat....The tickets were economical, particularly as we prefer the nose-bleed section, where there are fewer uptight patrons for whom we might spoil the performance with our whisperings or need to use the restroom at inoportune times. To our delight, we had several rows to ourselves. In the smaller venue, even 3 stories up, we had an adequate view of the stage, if you don't count the handrail that hit right at eye level. Or the upstage lefthand corner of the stage which was completely blocked from our view by the curvature of the room. Details. As the lights dimmed, all of us held our breath waiting for the dancers to begin. Even from our vantage point, we could hear the clump, clump, clump of toeshoes as dancers scurried in and out of the wings, and occasionally, the heavy breathing that comes with a strenuous performance. The boys hardly moved during the first piece - breathing in the graceful lines and postures of the dancers. Plus, I had bribed them with a promise of snacks at intermission. When the house lights came up, we dashed downstairs to get a place in the long line. By the time it was our turn, Nathan was on the verge of a meltdown because he doesn't like nuts in his brownies and TJ was paying more attention to the tangerine he had smuggled in than to the baked goods. I ordered the one cookie that had no nuts or raisins and hoped for the best. We had time for two bites before the lobby lights dimmed. As the dance progressed, I whispered some cues to them - "how is this dance different from the last one? What is different about the way they move? Their costumes?" We continued the conversation out in the hall at the conclusion of the piece, when we finished our cookie and brownie and tangerine I had wrapped in napkins and smuggled into the theatre in my purse. As we returned to our seats, Nathan of course, had to suddenly use the rest room immediately. We dashed off to find the restroom so he could spend 1 minute peeing and 5 minutes washing his hands. As he finally emerged from the restroom, we were the last people in the darkened lobby. "Run, Nathan!" I urged. I quietly reprimanded myself for breaking the rules as I carried my crying son up the three flights of stairs to our seats after he tripped and skidded on the carpet. This was the beginning of the end for us. From this point, the only part that captivated my youngest son was the 4 minute section of the dance when all the dancers feigned drunkenness. I think this was more in line with our experience in our seats as I refereed a full-blown fistfight (allbeit a quiet one) between my boys, and had to physically hold Nathan's legs together so he wouldn't bang them on the chair in front of him. We were all praying for the final bows and falling curtain. As we finally slid out of our seats and moved with the crowd towards the doors, Nathan started off in a different direction which prompted TJ to yell loudly for him to "Get back over here now before you get lost!" "But mom, It's ok to break the rules if there's a really good reason!" he assured me later.
At that point, I secretly wished someone had spiked my brownie.
But all the torrid details were quickly forgotten as the boys told daddy about their trip to the ballet. "Um, yea, I pretty much liked it." said Nathan. "I was hoping there would be more marine stuff in it" said TJ. "Marine like mermaids or something?" asked dad. "No, like guns. I was thinking it would be really cool to do a ballet with soldiers, and guns, and barbed would do a forward roll and pretend to cut through the barbed wire...." I could see the choreographic juices flowing.... This was definately my child. Ahhh, culture!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

lost and found

It's been an interesting fall and winter. Tracy was gone and returned - and finally, we moved. Two really big changes for our family that have required flexibility and patience from all of us. But for the past several months, this pattern has been replaying over and over again for me in a series of smaller reunions and partings. This summer I attended my 15 year college reunion, and reconnected with several of my college friends that I hadn't realized I'd missed so much. In preparation for our 20 year high school reunion, one classmate put together a listserv and I signed up. My daily e-mail is now bombarded with snippets of conversation from people I haven't seen in half my life. And just before Christmas, I received a phone call from one of my grad school professors about a surprise reunion to honor my mentor and dissertation chair. "Will you please go through your pictures..." The request is usually the same for these events. Bring up old memories, dust off old friendships. And having recently moved, there are a large number of Army friends I'm desperate to hold on to.
This has also been a season of losses. Nathan's broken arm was a big loss for me. Loss of what? I'm not really sure, maybe it was just a clear and painful reminder of our mortality, like the "20" part of the high school reunion. Or the dear friends with the sick daughter, who lost their past lives as parents of healthy children. Losing a house, an address - an identity of sorts in our move. And a couple of weeks ago, Grandpa Ken passed away. Then there's my work - which has been limited to volunteer work for the last three years, and is a hazy memory at best.
And so now we have a new house. We have new neighbors, new schools, a new church (building at least). We're finding some new friends here, like Taven - the boy from TJ's class who showed him around his first day. Imagine walking home from school to see him walk in the door next to ours? And the neighbors across the street with the BYU license plate frame that Tracy noticed as we drove up? And I found something else new and totally unexpected - on a whim I decided to take up the Mandolin. It's been exactly perfect for me.
So what is this pattern - lost and found, gain and lose? Maybe my problem is I let go of people too quickly. I didn't keep up with high school and college friends in my rush to finish grad school and get on with my life (including having our three beautiful kids). Maybe this is a clear message to me to Reconnect. To hold on to the important people in my life (you'd think a deployment would make this more clear to me?) To hold on to a stalled carreer maybe? Even though it is a bit tempting to want to shed some excess with each frequent army move.
My kids seem to have the opposite problem. The can't seem to let go of anything. Old broken down rusty bikes, baby toys, old, soiled clothing. They have been horrifically obsessed with preventing Tracy and I from taking any of our unused possessions to the thrift store or for recycling. They have cried buckets of tears, seriously, over little wooden blocks, of reminders of a babyhood spent in Texas. Or the first bike, and memories of adventures riding cross country with friends through our fantastic Kentucky backyard. I frankly have not understood their reactions at all. "We have so much", tracy and I tell them, "We can't keep everything."
I've heard that we define ourselves by the things we hold onto and the things we let go of. Tracy and I are anxious to not be overloaded with lots of junk - but how do we help our children hold on to the memories and meaningful experiences of their childhood? How do we maintain friendships with the people we love in our attempts to raise a busy family?

Maybe this multiplicity of balance questions show that I'm in need of a good dose of yoga... or divine inspiriation. Maybe this post will actually have a yoga class? Wish me luck.