((A happy belated Xmas message, should have resolutions by February. 2014 and only one month behind!))
Handel’s Messiah – a work of beauty and perfection – played in churches and concert halls around the globe, one of the best known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music and also the number one thing to do with young, rambunctious and painfully curious children… shoot me!
The performance today began innocently enough. We had the boys (6 and 8) in collared shirts and corduroy pants, I in my scarf, and Pa in his blazer, looking sharp, prepping them with, “it’s a time to listen” and “I have gum if you’re good” and “there are treats for good boys after.” We were good to go. Then, a pleasant surprise, we ran into friends from the neighborhood, a family with three boys (4, 7 and 9). I thought to myself, “Great, other boys, role models perhaps, to join us in our culturalization of the boys.”
The pews were packed with coiffed heads of mostly blue, gray and white, with the occasional brunette or blonde noggin littered between. This was to be an experience the boys rarely have, learning to sit quietly, amongst elders, in a church, and listen to one of history’s greatest oratorios.
Ah hell, enough set up, by the second half, my six year old was driving a car up the back of a church pillar, flopping onto his spine when we shushed him, barking full bore during the soprano’s solo, “when’s this over!” (insert cute lisp) and slamming plastic cars with his four year old buddy like it was a casual day in the playground. And quite honestly, given they were mostly quiet for the first half, I was not even that upset about it. Until, the Cracken in front of us, with the burgundy pillowed jacket and thinning black and silver hair, turned around for the 10th time. Only this time, she spat venomously – wait for it, “Leave! You’re ruining this!”
Myriad responses ran through my head as the choir belted hallelujah and the audience leapt to their feet to share the joy, the triumph, of Handel’s most revered work. The first being a fairly famous four-letter word finished off with “you!” The second being, “You leave, b#@$&ch, and prepare to be visited by three ghosts Scroogy McScrooge!” But my best response, and the response that mattered, was this (feel free to substitute your deity of preference), “God is testing you today lady, and you failed.”
And there I waited, patiently – my six year old in a head-lock with a mouthful of gum, licking my mood ring (hoping it would change color), sensing the gravity of it all – as I waited for her next head turn, the one she would regret for the rest of her nasty-old sea-hag years. When it hit me, “What would Handel want?” As I pondered that, watching my husband hold his breath (men get very protective when they sense a predator), attempting to enjoy the last few minutes of this fine musical masterpiece, the lady behind tapped me. “Your kids have been great,” she whispered.
After five minutes of clapping for the symphony, the tenor, the soprano, the alto, the mezzo, the conductor and the choir, it was finally over and everyone could breathe again. Still poised to confront the Cracken, this time with a “Merry Christmas, I hope you find some peace this holiday season,” when the lady behind tapped me again, “Your kids were so good and so quiet. What a wonderful thing you have done bringing them to this performance. More parents should do this.” Her husband and lovely friend chimed in with more accolades and it couldn’t have felt better. I didn’t even see the Cracken leave.
What would Handel do?
He would have children, elders, parents, teenagers, and people from all walks of life listen and rejoice to his music in whatever way they see fit – including driving a plastic dump-truck up the walls of a church as they enjoy his melodic passages. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…”
Merry Christmas to kids, parents and folks and Crackens all over!