These days, every time I sit down in our upstairs hallway after dinner I have the same thought. Is this the last time I’m going to watch A Show? “A Show:” This is what Esme, 9, and Eliza, 7, call what they’ve been periodically performing for us during the small window of time between dinner clean-up and bedtime for as long as I can remember. Not every night, but often enough for me to love the ritual so much that I come close to weeping if I think too hard about the day when it ends – a day that I’m sure is right around the corner. (I get a similar sensation when I look at the hand-scribed height chart on the back of our closet door. What’s the point of this exercise? Can I ask you that? As far as I can tell, the only reason to mark down the kids’ growth inch by inch over the course of their childhoods is to ensure that we have something to torture ourselves with later.)
The Shows started with Annie. Esme (then 4 or 5) would sing “Tomorrow” allowing her younger sister (then 2 or 3) to play Sandy, the dog, if she was lucky. They moved on to “The Nutcracker” (no singing, just Sugar-Plum-Fairying) then the Backyardigans. (I’m not too proud to admit it: That music is kinda rockin’.) Eliza has air-guitared to Wilco, the Drive-by Truckers, and the Clash. Esme has performed “Thriller,” has been a remarkable Wendy to Eliza’s Peter Pan, and devoted the spring of 09 to perfecting a G-rated interpretation of the “Put a Ring On It” video. Both of them have at some point had a moment – I’m sure of it – where they’ve convinced themselves they will grow up to be Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga. Or maybe even Scotty McCreery, if Scott McCreery suddenly woke up sounding like Smurfette instead of Randy Travis.
Sometimes we’ll go long stretches without a post-dinner dance and I think to myself “Is that it? Have I seen the last of Eliza strumming my old Prince Graphite and doing her best impersonation of Jeff Tweedy?” But then – a gift from the Gods – Mom! Show tonight. We lay down a strand of Christmas lights around the perimeter of the hall (“stagelights”), turn off the “house lights,” and wait as Eliza gets in costume and queues up the music for what she calls her Flowy Dance. Which involves wrapping herself up in a vintage linen tablecloth that was handed down from her great grandmother. But I am so grateful to be sitting in her audience of three (Mom, Dad, the Boston Terrier), that I barely even notice.