Playground Perspectives: Hold That Note

We continue to overestimate the capacity of our small child to remain still in environments where she doesn't have the slightest interest in what's happening around her. Like, for instance, a visit to her grandmother's house, a quick trip to the grocery store, a five hour driveto Charlotte, or an afternoon with the Richmond Symphony.


Leave it to Thea to loudly whisper, "This is BORING! Can we go now?" ten minutes into the Symphony's annual "Let It Snow" concert. When we're sitting five seats away from the Symphony's executive director. And into the ear of an older gentleman clearly interested in the music being performed.

Granted, the first half of the production largely consisted of older, traditional holiday music. The sort of music that doesn't pass the muster of a prima donna newly obsessed with dancing to the Cyndi Lauper, the Sugarhill Gang and Pomplamoose. Anything, really.

We did what any sane parents would do. We took a break. A 45-minute break until intermission had passed, and the program for the afternoon moved into the theoretically safe territory of the family sing-a-long. Fortified by a large gingerbread cookie and armed with a small, red bell on a string (and a small drinking straw), Thea returned triumphant into the grand Carpenter Theatre. She was -- to paraphrase the modern wrestling parlance -- ready to jingle.

After conductor Erin Freeman instructed the audience on the safe use of jingle bells, the Symphony and its chorus rolled through at least 37 variations of "Jingle Bells". Just to get Thea comfortable with new approaches to old themes. She jingled steadily. Even in the non-jingle moments. And she conducted mightily with her drinking straw, attentively watching the conductor's moves and intently mirroring them.

But it was the "12 Days of Christmas" that sealed the deal. You see, we started practicing that little number weeks ago. And Thea had perfected the art of holding some seriously off-key vocalizations at key moments. Like when Erin decided to be tricky and adjust her cues to the audience -- creating space for young, loud voices not trained to pay attention to cues to really shine.

There was the young boy at stage left with his preemptive, "five gooooooolllddeeen rings!" And there was Thea hot on his heels with very proud, sincere and elongated homage to that damned partridge and his pear tree. It hung in the air for long seconds. It attracted stares of genuine admiration, and more than a few bemused glances.

But that's what makes life with a four-year-old so sweet and special. They exist in this precious, precarious cocoon, balancing between full throttle and kindergarten (where she'll be forced to throttle down). It is exhausting and delightful to watch Thea move through the world, and through this holiday season, with new-found awareness and verve. I'll be sad when it's gone. But I'll also be less tired.