It was a rainy day in Sonora while we were visiting yesterday, creating the perfect day for a theatre performance. We attended A Christmas Story at Sierra Repertory Theatre and learned a valuable lesson, but it wasn’t what you’d expect.
Based on the motion picture, A Christmas Story is inspired by Jean Shepherd’s classic American stories about Christmas – and growing up – in the Midwest. Young Ralphie Parker’s fervent campaign for a Red Ryder BB gun unfolds despite a chorus of worries and amid seasonal shenanigans involving a leg lamp, a bunny suit, and a tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole. It’s one of my favorite holiday features and I was excited about sharing it with Athena.
We arrived fifteen minutes before it started and Santa was there to greet us. Excitedly, Athena climbed onto his lap and he asked her what she wanted for Christmas. I took photos while they chatted about the possibilities. All was well.
We found our seats shortly after Athena’s talk with Santa. The theatre was quaint and the staff seemed to step out of the midwest themselves with friendly, charming demeanor. Athena was a little rambunctious and I took a minute to explain my expectations and ask her to settle into her seat.
The production opened with Kevin McKillip as adult Ralph. His powerful voice rang through the theatre and his comedic storytelling was spot on. Athena enjoyed that it was about two children and I smiled at the references to snow and cold. As an eastern Canadian, I can truly appreciate the context.
I was enthralled by the performances but noticed Athena getting more and more fidgety. Was she tired? Was she too young for the show? Was something else going on? I really couldn’t tell at that point. She laughed at the jokes and watched the children on stage, especially when they pretended to be in the snow and at school, but she was still antsy.
By intermission, Athena had gone from a little annoying to most definitely annoying to me and to others around. No one said anything but I was the embarrassed mother distraught with my child’s behavior. She wouldn’t sit still. She was talking. She was banging around in the seat. At one point, she even “shushed” me. I was livid but confined to a quit room and an ever-growing annoying child.
Many of the other guests stood up for a walk or to use the restroom during intermission. I asked Athena to put on her shoes and told her I needed to go to the potty. She put on her shoes and headed toward the door.
When we reached the main entrance, I scooped her up and said we are leaving. I knew that if I did it before then she’d make a huge scene. I wasn’t wrong. She started yelling, “I don’t want to leave” and kicking to get down. Calmly, I held her tight and said, “you weren’t behaving well enough to stay despite my warnings.”
She was furious and it was difficult to even get her in the car. She yelled and fought all the way back to the hotel (thankfully it was close).
Once inside, I ignored her for a bit until I calmed down then I was going to talk to her about her behavior. I was disappointed to miss the rest of a performance that I’d longed to see and in her behavior.
About ten minutes later, she said she was sorry and I asked her to explain what she was sorry about and why. I’m hoping for a better outcome next time and for the patience and understanding to continue dealing with situations like this. She is a great child and it’s a pleasure exploring the world with her at my side but we both have our off days. A Christmas Story was a lovely production that we would have enjoyed any other day of the week or maybe even at a different time that day. I can’t predict how Athena will behave all the time or fully understand what’s going on in that complex head of hers, but I can try to be patient and talk to her about expectations and forgive her when she fails. While it felt like a fail for me as well, I learned that tomorrow is another day and I have to just keep trying.
If you have a chance to catch A Christmas Story at East Sonora Theatre, I look forward to hearing about the second half. If it wasn’t such a far drive, I’d return but this time I’d get a babysitter for Athena.