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Autumn and the Papa

I’ve always loved plays – both watching and performing. From singing and dancing as a colonial lady in 5th grade to touring elementary schools as Tabitha Toodlemeyer in my 20s, the stage has been home. And so as soon as the world became COVID safe, I introduced Autumn to theater. At the age of two, Winnie the Pooh live was her first show. For one hour, she sat, quietly mesmerized by the characters – whom she had only experienced in books or on the small screen – come to life. She is by far her own person – ballet and pink to my softball and blue – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thank the powers that be profusely for giving me a daughter who not only shares my love of the arts, but also takes it several steps further.


On many an evening, Autumn transforms our great room into a theater. She casts roles, wears costumes and performs scenes. Dorothy has followed the yellow brick road en route to the Wizard, and Dory has swam determined, heading toward her parents. But the most memorable production to date took place just last week, show time 7 pm.


Halloween costume deliberations had been going on for months.


“Next year, I’m gonna be a goat,” she said on November 1. Which then, over months, transformed into a lemon, which finally materialized into a princess. I hesitated making a purchase, knowing full well the only thing that changes faster than the Chicago weather is the toddler mind.


“Once you ask for the same costume four times in a row,” I told her, inferring, of course, on four separate occassions, “then, I’ll buy it.”


I blame my cloudy COVID brain for failing to recall toddlers are like pavement – totally concrete.


“Belle, Belle, Belle, Belle,” she said. And while Nana and Papa laughed, I ordered.


The day the costume arrived began like any other day. I went to work and came home, greeted by Tod and Autumn, waiting eagerly, and a few Amazon packages, sitting patiently. It was hours before I got around to them – a two pound box of pitted dates and velcro picture hangers, a math workbook and the dress. I didn’t think much of it. The bright yellow ensemble, complete with gloves and earrings, was similar enough to the rest of the royal apparel invading her closet, from Anna to Jasmine, Dorothy to Elsa.


But, as I’d soon learn, this one was special.


“Can I wear it?” she asked, and while the old me might suggest saving it for October 31, the seasoned me knows life is too short.


I wish I could say it fit perfectly, but it was way too long. I wish I could give five stars to all the accessories, but within minutes, the wand broke. I wish I could say none of that mattered.


And sometimes, wishes come true.


The night to remember began in front of the kitchen table with my parents in the audience, myself the presenter, and Belle. To avoid tripping, she scooched eloquently down the stairs, standing gracefully and gliding toward center stage. She looked around, and announced the last minute change.


“I need Papa to be the Beast,” she said, her casting never more perfect.


And so, with a chuckle, but not a moment of hesitation, my father hoisted himself from the couch, gallantly put out his hand, and with Angela Lansbury serenading, dipped and twirled my daughter.


Although the wand had broken, magic abounded.


Was it the way life was imitating art? Or perhaps the tone rivaling that of a wedding father-bride dance? Maybe it was how effortlessly in sync they were? But, most likely, I recognized it for what it was – my dad dancing with my very own daughter – a middle aged award-winning moment I was never guaranteed and would now forever cherish. Because while you may never miss the things you don’t have, you’re sure grateful when they not only show up in your life, but also guest star.


Mommy On.



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