I love me a children's holiday recital. They are precious and highly entertaining for me. Here's Mina and her crew from yesterday's program. Why they are all wearing easter egg hats beats me, but all in all, great times. Especially when I know Mina is pretty much just lip synching up there; that is until her favorite song comes on which is Feliz Navidad. When Feliz Navidad cues, her eyes light up and she pumps both fists. She belts it out: "FELI NAVIDA! FELI NAVIDA! FELI NAVIDA HOSPERO AN-NYO EEEE FELISSSIDA!" The best is when the chorus comes around and she does the snake with her head. "I WANNA WISSS YOU A---" And I'm thinking, "Go Mina, Go Mina, it's yo birthday."
At least she sings now. Up until last year she just sat in the sea of singers, not upset, not trying to get down, but just sat there and listened to her friends sing songs. She'd bop her head and look around at her classmates, giving them moral support. She'd look into the audience, just appreciating the moment and the scene. And when the song was over, she would clap emphatically.
Guess who's never been like that? Mmhm, Maya. During her first recital in pre school, the teacher held out a microphone in front of the kids as they sang. During the song, Maya inched closer and closer to the microphone until she was trying to wrestle it away from the teacher. Her mouth would be all on the microphone yelling out an ear-blasting You Better Watch Out. Nothing like a three year old's amplified heavy breathing. Here's Maya now. Check her out with the gorgeous theater face and the "caroling hands." Her recital was last week, but believe me when I tell you that I have known every single song by heart since Thanksgiving. If I didn't hear "Mami, listen to this . . ." three times a night since mid-November, I would check her temperature. Maya's the type that if she messes up one syllable of a song, she'll start again from the beginning. She will also ask, "Do you think my singing sounds better this time [sings entire song] or this time [sings same song entirely]?" I'd say, "They both sound pretty good, baby." And she'd reply, "Let me do it again then until one really sounds better." I would then muffle my soft weeping.
Maya's recital was held in the gym of the local high school because someone thought it would be a good idea to combine all the neighboring elementary schools, the middle school and high school recitals into one! Hmm, gee, no, not a good idea. So, they sardined us into a stanky gym on wobbly fold out chairs all at one level insuring that no one beyond row three could see shit. There were twenty long rows that stretched the length of the gym. We were shit out of luck. So Husband and I just had to stare at all the other parents. It was then I realized that the lighting in the gym was so hideous it could've made Jennifer Lopez look like a hag. It accentuated eye bags and dark circles, defined lines creases; made everyone look like they had some kind of skin disease. It was like a white, black light. Everyone's hair shone an orange tint. Holiday nails came to life and jean jumpers with embroidered santas on them looked technicolor. I was trippin! After the show had started, a dad strutting in wearing full Marine dress-up clothes -- with the sharp blue nero jacket and the navy pants with the sweet red stripe down the side? He had a crew cut and metals and the shiniest black shoes on planet earth. And since none of us parents could see our children singing, all five billion of us just stared at the Marine walking with puffed chest down the aisle. With the lighting he glowed and a haze of color trailed him. I waited for some gung ho parent to start the Slow Clap for him.
So this recital kinda sucked. I told Maya genuinely, though I may regret it later, "I liked it better when you sang the songs by yourself."
But no recital has been the same since the girls stopped going to Anneliese. Anneliese is a school founded by a funky German woman that emphasizes creativity in learning. Both girls attended from age two through kindergarten, and it is the raddest school ever; dream-like really. For those of you that do not know the OC area, there is a canyon carved in the hills of Laguna Beach that starts at the footsteps of the beach and runs about six miles inland. It is a fantastic piece of curvy road sandwiched by palm-filled lush hills and sporadic fields where permanent easels are set up for the painting clubs that grace the area. On the east side of the canyon, Anneliese is tucked away against the hills occupying an old Mormon school that was originally built in 1888. Since Anneliese took it over, she has built a bird sanctuary housing breath-taking peacocks and lovely swans. There is also a pig on the grounds and two llamas named Cosmo and Como Se Llama. Apart from the main school house that looks like a mission, tiny round bungalows were built to hold only one class. A long circular desk lines the wall. All the students face each other in this circle. These bungalows are so heart-warmingly wonderful, I don't know one adult that doesn't want to play School in there for the rest of their lives. Other gorgeous touches of the school: Mexican-tiled sinks, children's art framed from floor to ceiling; wood wagon-wheel chandeliers and home-cooked vegetarian meals. At Anneliese, they teach in five different languages, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and English. I slapped myself every single day of the seven years we were part of their community. I shed small tears reminiscing, but my heart swells near capacity with the fact that the girls were able to start their school careers with such a goddamn bang.
And the holiday recitals at Anneliese were off the chain. We would cram into the main building that was decorated like a movie set with large, fresh garlands lacing the chandeliers and children's stain glass art hanging in the windows causing colorful casts of light. With parent-packed wood benches on persian rugs and the smell of sour kraut and apple cider in the air, the children would fill the stage and sing holiday favorites in different languages. One year they sang a holiday song in Swahili. The individual teachers have complete creative license and they would teach the kids according to their own culture which translated into the Mexican Hat Dance (see Mina in costume), a Peruvian number or an old French song. Sometimes the teacher would teach the children popular songs. I am completely choked up now thinking about the year Maya sang I Believe I Can Fly complete with sign language. Or when Mina's class did Iz's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow? IN CHILDREN'S VOICES? Waterworks for days, now even. It was all so beautiful beyond compare.
We pass by Anneliese every day in the canyon. Every day we say, "Hi Anneliese" just like every time we see the ocean there is a female chorus in the car, "Good Morning Ocean!" It feels good to salute things that have been good to you