Startled Not Scared

| December 5, 2015 | 0 Comments
The Grinch startled grandchild number four. Photo by Jim Cox.

The Grinch startled grandchild number four. Photo by Jim Cox.

I was 15 when I fell under the spell of the theater. It was the last day of the run and after that the play was going on to Broadway. In those days, new plays often went to tryout cities before they opened on Broadway, and Philadelphia was one of those cities.

My school had received a block of free tickets to give to students and when the announcement was made, I was first in line. I had performed in school productions and loved the whole concept of theater. The play was “The Diary of Anne Frank,” a story about a girl close to my age, a Jewish girl who was trying to survive in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, a girl I could easily relate to.

I remember vividly that first experience of walking into a theater, taking my seat and waiting excitedly for the magic to begin. I was not disappointed; it was all that I hoped for. The story, the theater itself, the fellow theater lovers surrounding me, it truly was magic. From the opening lines to final curtain calls, I was smitten and that love affair just grew and grew into my adult years, into my years raising children and continues to this day, as I joyfully share that experience with my grandchildren.

My sons, who are approaching middle age, still reminisce about their first experiences with mom at the theater. Most vivid in the memories of both of them is the time I took them to a small theater in town to see “The Snow Queen.” They remind me of that cold winter day, when the theater was not much warmer and we sat on bean bags that took the place of seats. They laugh and tease me, but they do remember, and that’s what I hold dear.

As grandkids came along, I could not wait until each one was old enough to appreciate that same joy. I wanted their first theater experience to be with me. I wanted that feeling that comes with exposing something I love to children. I hoped they will share that same feeling.

Here in San Diego we have something perfect for a child’s first theater outing. We have “The Grinch” every Christmas season at the Old Globe. I waited until the first two grandkids were three and five and it was all I could hope for. The three-year old sat in awe asking over and over when the movie will begin. Her savvy older brother tried to explain that these were real people we were going to see, not a movie, but she could not fathom that until the magic began. From that moment on, they too were hooked. He was an audience member, she was a participant, acting in school plays, and a summer of junior theater.

Years’ later, grandchild number three shared the family love of watching a play, and last year my youngest and last grandchild had her first taste of “The Grinch.” We sat in the center, her on the aisle and me in the middle, in between them both, so I could feel their excitement equally.

“The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” is almost interactive as the characters file up and down the aisles, singing and dancing, close enough to touch for lucky kids who sat nearby. At one point the Grinch was running up the aisle we sat on, when suddenly he stopped, turned to my little granddaughter and said “grrrrr.” She jumped, a little scared and a lot delighted, another theater lover in the making. After the play, she couldn’t stop talking about how the Grinch scared her at first. I reminded her that this was just a man in a costume, sort of like a Halloween costume. When she accepted what I told her she was not scared, she was startled and used that as a teaching moment to learn another word.

Now, in the days leading up to this year’s outing to “The Grinch,” it makes me smile when she tells me “I won’t be scared this time, Gramma, I will only be startled.

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