First we showered and got ready. She came out in jeans, a long eggplant purple velvet hippie bohemian skirt, and an I Love Penguins t-shirt. Although she looked fabulous I chided her, in spite of myself.
"Sicily, we are going to a musical. You love to get dressed up, and you don't get the chance to do it very often. Shine for me, please."
She came back out in a beautiful lime green corduroy dress, white tights, and a low ponytail.
"Mom, will you please do my hair for me? Dry it, and fix it?"
I'm not the best with hair, but my sister gave me an elegant flower-shaped rhinestone pin for Christmas a couple of years ago that I love to wear in my ponytails to fancy events. So I offered it to Sicily, and she was enamored. We got all dolled up, and headed to lunch at Wendy's, her choice.
They were featuring Mad Libs, so over chicken nuggets, french fries, and a Southwest salad, I taught her the meaning of adjectives, verbs, and nouns. She peppered the Mad Libs liberally with nonsense words from Roald Dahl books I have read her over the last year, and the final product, which we read in the car in order to save the Wendy's patrons from lots of potty humor, was hilarious.
I got directions on my iPhone, and we headed over to the Baptist Church after filling the car with gas. We were the only Caucasian couple in the large audience of the predominantly African-American church, and I wondered, feeling a little like I was sticking out like a sore thumb, if this is what my partner felt like at work sometimes. Private practice is not nearly the melting pot of academics, especially in the South. I knew that we might be the only Caucasian people in the crowd, and worried, unnecessarily, over my six year old daughter Sicily's response. Earlier, while we were getting ready, she asked,
"Mom, is the church going to be only Spanish? Like the time (her nanny) Nina took us to her church?"
"No Sicily, but it is a church attended by mostly black people. We may be the only light-skinned people there."
She looked up at me and smiled. "No mom, you will be the only light-skinned person there! Not me. My skin is brown." She tans easily. I smiled, agreed with her, and loved that she has absolutely no qualms or hang-ups over skin color. I was silently projecting and worrying that she might make an observation aloud in the church that would offend someone. I resolved to quit my internal nonsense.
God the musical was incredible. It was The Black Nativity, by Langston Hughes. I read earlier in the week that it originally opened on Broadway in 1961 to rave reviews, even though two of the lead actors quit, because they were worried about the audience response during such a racially unstable time in our country. African chants, beautiful dance, choir music, amazing blues, silly rap, and gospel. During the intermission, my partner stopped by to say hello, and wondered if I was enjoying it. I nodded enthusiastically.
I asked her, "Did you see this for the first time when you went to St. Louis in mid-December?"
She smiled. "Yes."
"And you and your husband brought the entire St. Louis Black Repertory here, to your church, to share it with your church family? That was so quick! It is only the beginning of January."
She smiled again, a humble smile, but a pleased one. I wondered at the magic and power of possibility. Just imagine something, put a little work into it, and you can make it happen. She showed me that, on Saturday. After she went back to her seat, I got a tap on my shoulder.
"Gizabeth, is that you?"
My chairman's personal assistant from residency was sitting behind me, next to the former head of histology. I shrieked with recognition and hugged her excitedly. We caught up on old times, and I thanked my old histology boss for making me go to the doctor when I cut myself on a gallbladder the first month of residency. She towed the party line, while I was trying to hide my cut and staunch the flow of blood, in order to "be tough." I ended up needing many stitches. She smiled at my recollections. "At least you didn't dump formalin on it, like (so-and-so)!" We all wished each other a Happy New Year.
Sicily and I headed to Starbucks, again her choice, after the event. I had promised her, when she got a little bored and tired during the musical. She's only six - it's hard to blame her. I remember getting bored at Phantom of the Opera in New York when I was young. At least she didn't start stripping like she did when I took her to see Annie when she was four (she gets hot when she's tired). I asked her, over coffee and cinnamon cake, what her favorite part of the musical was.
"When they were doing like this. In the microphone. Ssshhhh."
"When did they do that? I don't remember."
"At the end, mom. What was your favorite part?"
I had so many, it was hard to think of one. I repaired my eyeliner, on the way into the coffee shop, because I teared up at least three times during the performance. The music, dance, and stories were incredibly moving.
"When the kids were performing. And singing. They were hesitant, and cute. It was funny. And when the men were kvetching over their jobs as shepherds. Singing the blues about hating their jobs, and losing their wives because they weren't making enough money to support their family. It was so funny, in a bittersweet way. And I loved when they were reigning in the people who were hunched over, acting like sheep, trying to wander off the stage."
"Let's just play rock/paper/scissors now, mom."
I went to the bathroom at the coffee shop, and told Sicily she could just sit in her seat instead of come with me, if she wanted to. I still get nervous about doing this, even though she is pretty grown up. As I walked out a minute later, I couldn't find her. My heart stopped. I caught the eye of another woman, and she glanced down behind a chair to show me where my child was hiding. Relief flooded me. I played along with Sicily's game, and pretended to search the whole store for her.
"Mom! I'm right here."
"My God Sicily! I've been looking for you everywhere! Where on Earth did you go?"
She laughed. "Magic, mom. I disappeared. Were you worried?"
Of course I was. But we were having so much fun, I didn't want to ruin the day by getting mad at her. I would discuss hiding in restaurants while I was in the bathroom later. "Not in the least. Glad you magically returned to your seat. How about we go home and check on John?"
"OK, mom. But let's go slow. I want this moment with you, without John, to last forever."
I missed John. And wanted to catch up with him and his day. But I understood, and we drove around the block a couple of extra times, singing at the top of our lungs, before we went home.