Battle of the …

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens; bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens. Those are the Carpenter’s scariest things. My husband is an easy-going construction guy who understands two fundamental things about our life: marriage is a compromise and sometimes parenthood means “grin and bear it.” That is especially true when I recently coerced him to the final performance of The Sound of Music in Toronto.

That family-friendly production was the perfect cultural experience. As parents, we agreed exposing our children to performing arts and cultural events is essential. In hindsight, I think the Carpenter meant rock concerts and dramatic plays, as opposed to musicals or, heaven help him, the ballet. So logically, I probably shouldn’t have said, “but Hon, it’s a sing-a-long,” as if that was the kicker to inspire my husband’s enthusiasm.

I also didn’t expect my 7-year-old son to take a hardened view this performance would somehow impede his masculine destiny. When I announced our special trip, he started to cry. His eyes said it all. Did I hate him? Was he being punished for a crime he didn’t know he’d committed? Oh, the therapy to come.

The Carpenter rescued me. “When we’re done there, the Hockey Hall of Fame is just a few minutes away. We can head over and see the Stanley Cup.”

Good save. Technically a museum of hockey is Canadian culture, I decided. My son was appeased, (barely), which explains why his theatre-going outfit consisted of a Sidney Crosby jersey and Colorado Avalanche toque. Like father like son.

This must be why I was blessed by a daughter. Upon hearing of our adventure, she began twirling about the house, coordinating Toronto-appropriate ensembles and packing snacks. The two hour drive consisted of no less than 230  responses to the age-old question, “Are we there yet?” No.

Throughout the day, it became apparent the family line was drawn in the sand: estrogen versus testosterone. By intermission, nearly two hours into the show, I already had one good tear session, my daughter had found her artistic calling and my son was squirming in his chair as if tiny fire ants were biting his posterior. The Carpenter stared in a daze that suggested he had gone too long without caffeine or oxygen. At least he was still awake. The minute the house lights came up, he sprang from his chair and disappeared into the crowd.

The children and I headed for the bribery of the snack bar. Two slushies later, they were wound tight enough to spin. Then came my favourite moment. It was time to return to our seats. My boy turned to me, eyes watering: “You mean there is more?” Defeated.

Something told me the Carpenter felt the same way. I felt sure he’d fled to the car to escape “the hills coming alive” again. Happily, when we returned to our seats, there he was, caffeinated and alert.

Next stop: Hockey Hall of Fame. Estrogen balanced testosterone, art balanced sport and in the end, I realized that the real cultural experience of the day was us. We are our own culture of unique individuals bound together in life and love, a weird and wonderful work of art called a family.

 “Are we there yet?” Yes.


Kelly Waterhouse