Thursday, November 10, 2011

Concert with Daddy

Nathaniel celebrated turning 3 on Saturday. More on his party, and the absolute joy I felt in helping to throw it, in a later post, when we get pictures and video.

The following day, Sunday, I took Nathaniel to a concert. It was a bit of a gamble. About a week before, I spied an ad in a local monthly about "power drumming" groups on a tour from south Asia. The pictures showed individuals and groups smacking what looked like bongos and congas. Since Nathaniel sees me do this with the musical ensemble at church and loves drums (and music, in general), I thought it would be nice for him to see how professionals do it. But I wasn't sure whether this would be the proper setting.

So I called the group that was organizing the concert in Providence. The nice lady on the other end of the line didn't have much information, but she did direct me to a web site called caravanserai, which showed me some of these performers in action. I still didn't know exactly who was coming, but the ticket prices were reasonable and there was an intermission after about 45 minutes, which gave me the option to cart Natty home if he was bored by then. So, I went for it.

On Sunday evening, Daddy took Nathaniel on his special night out. We got to the amphitheater just in time, found some seats and settled in. The first performer was a gentleman from Pakistan, I believe, who sat squat legged on a slightly elevated platform covered in carpets and two small bongo-like drums. He used his fingers almost exclusively to pound out beats and sounds, a rhythmic thrumming like you might do on your desk, but much, much more sophisticated. To my surprise, Nathaniel enjoyed the performance, standing the whole time and dutifully clapping energetically after each piece. I say surprised because while the drumming was indeed exceptional, I figured a 3-year-old would not be terribly impressed by a sitting man playing with his fingers. I was wrong.

After a brief pause, two long-haired gentleman from India came on to the stage. They were dressed in light robes and one of them was barefoot. The drums they held were enormous, fat tubes hanging around their waists, positioned parallel to the ground. Each struck the drum from both sides; in one hand, each held an instrument that looked like a sickle and in the other what appeared to be a drumstick. They began playing, and, well, they had Nathaniel from the first beat. He stood there, transfixed, as the drumming intensified, and one of the men began spinning, faster and faster, until the oversized drum was swinging tautly suspended from his waist, gripped by centrifugal force. Then, as he was spinning, the other drummer inserted the strap of his drum into the spinning drummer's mouth, and now the guy was spinning and pounding on one drum, while the other was flying behind him.
Let me tell you, it all made for great theater, a spectacle so intense that I thought Nathaniel's head was going to pop off. He was swaying to the beat, rhythmically clapping his hands to the drumming. Watching him, I couldn't help but smile widely. My boy was having so much fun!

What did you think? Pretty cool, huh? It was even better live. Nathaniel was pretty jazzed after that, so I decided we'd stick it out through intermission and see the next act. That was quite good, too, featuring a group of singers, percussion and an instrument that sounded somewhat like an accordion. Enough to keep Natty's attention, for the most part.

Afterward, I asked him if he liked it. "Yeah," he replied softly, still caught up in the moment.

So, I'm here to report that concert night with Daddy went swimmingly. You know, Nathaniel likely won't remember going, but I will, and it was a fine, fine night with my oldest son.

Days later as Michelle was driving the boys from the children's museum, she asked Nathaniel what "fun thing" he'd like to do after quiet time. "Go to a concert with Daddy," he said.

Guess he remembers it after all. And fondly, at that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Home

Last Saturday at 6 a.m. a group of wanderers all but fell into the house, wrung out from the road.

My family was home.

Indeed, Michelle, ably supported by her sister, had driven with the children non-stop from Iowa back to New England. Their trip, thankfully, was uneventful. But it may not have been.

That's because, as those in the northeast U.S. surely know, that a rare October snowstorm was bearing down just as the gang was journeying eastward. I didn't even know about this Nor'easter until I was watching the national nightly news. Concerned, I went on the web and checked out the forecast at various points along Michelle's route. It did not look pretty, at least if you're driving. The midsection of Pennsylvania, for example, was expected to get up to 10 inches of snow. This, it goes without saying, would make for some tough sledding, especially for a sleep-deprived crew.

I checked the forecast for upstate New York. To my surprise, it called for clouds, with only a 20-30 percent chance of mostly rain. Heartened, I called Michelle. She, her sister and the boys had just passed Cleveland. In just several miles, they could veer north and hop on to Interstate 90.

It turned out to be a good move. Pennsylvania got dumped by snow. Meanwhile, upstate New York stayed nice and dry, and our gang motored on through, unimpeded, although bone-tired, to our little bayside town.

I was so, so happy to see everyone. It is hard to describe how much I missed them. I felt this odd sensation the full 10 days they were gone, truly as if a piece of me had been physically ripped from my being and taken away. I only got that piece of me back when they returned.

Despite the joy, everyone came back in varied states of illness. Which means that not only were the boys antsy and out of sorts from their long trip, but they were a little strung out from coughs and colds. The honeymoon doesn't last long, now does it? And, yes, by Monday, I had succumbed to the germs, coming down with a nasty cold myself that I think I'm just coming out of.

Whatever. I'll take the cold and the cough – so long as my family remains after delivering them. I am that glad they are home.