The warm-up “Green Show” before last night’s production of Romeo & Juliet let slip a spoiler about the ending: Romeo & Juliet end up dead. “Oops,” the Fool-Squad fool exclaimed. “If there’s anyone here who didn’t pass ninth grade English, we just ruined the surprise.” I had a laugh at that, given that I was sitting at the time between Keoni, who (though not born before Shakespeare, as he jokes) did go through high school before R&J was required reading, and Christian, who’s a couple years shy of reaching ninth grade.
Christian saw a few scenes of Hamlet at school a couple months ago, and came home chattering about the satisfying carnage at its end. His enthusiastic verdict: “They putteth on a good show!” Fueled by his interest, we got online to see what offerings would be found in this year’s season at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and he expressed an interest in Romeo & Juliet. “Yeah, it’s a love story—but it’s also a tragedy, so that’ll be okay.” With the proceeds from an e-Book on vitamins I was writing that week, we purchased three tickets for the show. (Elena Grace, at 8, is too young; Kapena, at 16, is uninterested. The two of them stayed home and had a movie night.)
Christian has always been an interesting challenge when it comes to matching him with reading material. He reads at a post-graduate level, but he’s still an eleven-year-old boy, with the interests (and aversions) attendant on that particular age. Along the same lines, he’s a kid who has no trouble following the flow of Shakespearian English (because he often thinks in that kind of language in his imagination, he told me), but whose pre-existing knowledge of the plot-line comes from Disney’s Gnomeo & Juliet (in which the cartoon-bust of Shakespeare holds forth on how the story is supposed to end)…
Several times during the play when the lovers went into their monological rhapsodies on each other’s perfections, he rolled his eyes and jokingly mimed hitting an imaginary “fast-forward” button (eww, mush!)—although when Juliet dissolved into very real sobs upon hearing of Romeo’s banishment, he leaned over to whisper the solemn observation, “She’s good!” (I’ll be curious to see if he has any interest in the Drama Club, now that he’s heading into Junior High.)
He’s wise enough to follow not only the language, but also the humor—he leaned over after one of Mercutio’s bawdier riffs of sexual innuendo and confided cautiously, “I probably understand more of this than I should.” And I’m okay with that. Yes, Shakespeare should probably carry an “R” rating–but then, so should some conversations among eleven-year-old boys, as I know perfectly well.
Last night I had as much fun watching Christian watch the production as I did watching the show itself. And I did enjoy the show. One of the dangers, I think, in a too-well-known story, is forgetting that it’s full of very real moments of emotion. (Just as with clichés in language—when a phrase becomes too familiar, we forget to notice the cleverness or evocative power of a word-combination because it has become too familiar…) Juliet’s agonizing imagination of what might await her when she awakes in a tomb, for example, is nothing less than heart-wrenching (when performed well—as this was) and her determination to overcome those fears for the sake of the chance of a happy-ending… Wow.
Christian didn’t have the tears on his cheeks that Keoni and I did at the end of the final scene, but he was fully absorbed. And (as always, with him) I got a kick out of his peculiar mix of kid-ness and adult-ness. At intermission he offered some insightful philosophical observations on the characters (in particular, drawing parallels between Friar Lawrence and myself) and then withdrew, turtle-like, into the depths of his oversized hoodie for “some alone-time with Dragon,” re-emerging briefly to announce with delight that he could see inside the sweatshirt because of the glow-in-the-dark jellyfish on his T-shirt.
I love this kid.
Unfortunately, so do mosquitoes. The outdoor amphitheater by the river does come with a side-serving of bugs, and Christian woke this morning wondering if we had “anything for itches.” Not in the medicine cabinet, but… “Mom’s doing a Kitchen Chemistry series on her blog,” Keoni told him, “and I bet she can come up with something.” A little research, and here we are: simple baking soda mixed with water to form a paste. Our
victim guinea-pig reports that his new itch-paste works just as well as “Dad’s pink stuff” (Calamine lotion), so I’m declaring this one a Kitchen Chemistry win!
Of course, the absence of “pink stuff” in our medicine cabinet is directly related to the general paucity of “green stuff” in our bank; it goes without saying that in the context of our uber-frugal budget, these three tickets were an extravagant expense. But… so worthwhile!
Nor was it squandered on an unappreciative audience. Christian enjoyed having “his grownups” all to himself for an entire night. He asked if he could keep his ticket as a memento, and he buried his nose in the fifty-page program. He enjoyed Keoni’s picnic of chicken katsu and fresh strawberries and chocolate pie. He pointed out the first few stars becoming visible above the stage as dark dropped its blanket over the amphitheater. He chattered all the way home about the staging and the fighting and the characters and the plot and the Green Show jokes… And he is thoroughly pleased that the expedition arose from an interest HE had expressed. He was wired and wound up about Shakespeare—and his English-teacher-mommy was loving every minute of his enthusiasm.
I don’t yet know if we’ll be able to splurge twice this summer, but I’m keeping in mind that The Winter’s Tale is being staged in August—and that Christian wants to go. And that if we do manage to return, I’ll go prepared this time with some preventive Kitchen Chemistry in the form of some insect repellant! (Stay tuned—I’ll let you know what I find.)
If a second Shakespeare-excursion doesn’t happen—well, that’s part of the Balance in our family life. A main contributing factor to the scarcity of “green stuff “was the decision (voted unanimously by the three kids) that having Mommy with them throughout the summer was preferable to having Mommy in the entrance-booth of the nearby State Park (last summer’s seasonal job, which I was offered again this year), even though Mommy-in-the-booth would have meant more resources-in-the-bank. When Christian observed at seven this evening that the weather was perfect for a walk to the lake, we were free to grab our towels without a second thought and stroll (past the unoccupied-by-Mom park-entrance-booth) to the beach, where the kiddos spent the last couple hours of this longest-day in the water and the sunshine.
Keoni and I were just reflecting that we’ll continue to enjoy whatever adventures and experiences do come our way. Writing the “Vitamins” e-Book not only paid for the Shakespeare tickets, but provided us with some informational resources for family health. When Elena Grace arrived this week with a mouth full of canker sores, we knew that those might be related to stress (their dad’s wedding last week?) OR might be due to vitamin deficiency. With the knowledge I’d gained in vitamin-research, we evaluated and switched the kids’ multi-vitamins. (Some things you don’t skimp on, even with a tight budget!) And the Evening Out that was funded by the vitamin book led, in its own turn, to a little more Kitchen-Chemistry wisdom. As the kids say, “That’s how we roll!” Or, as Christian said this morning—stretched out beside me with a good book and no schedule-obligations marring the day ahead of us—“THIS is Summer, the way it should be. Family family family!” Even Shakespeare couldn’t top that wisdom.