Friday, June 28, 2019

Of Clowns and Newborns

Here's what we were doing 6/25/86

Question: What do a Chatter the Clown performance and the delivery room in Chestnut Hill Hospital have in common?

Answer: Both were scenes of great excitement on Tuesday evening, June 25, 1986.

I was almost three weeks past my due date (that would never be allowed today). My mom was up from Atlanta for the birth of her second grandchild, but had to return to the South for the closing on her house, when young Master Ev still hadn’t made his debut.  

While Steve wasn’t expecting ME to attend the opening night of the Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theatre Season Five, he certainly hoped to be there himself. But as the weeks passed with no sign of an infant, hubby realized he needed a Plan B (or C, for Clown, to be precise). An area clown who went by the stage name “Chatter” was hired to give a performance, so we’d have a fun production to offer our audience.

The morning of the 25th, I still felt no closer to active labor. However, around 2 PM the familiar pangs began. Sheridan had taken nine hours to be born, so when we arrived at the hospital around 4:30 we figured it’d be quite a while yet. My obstetrician, Doctor Woodruff, examined me and said, “Early stages. I’m going to get dinner. I’ll be back in a bit.”

As it turned out, the good doctor’s meal break seemed to young Evan the perfect moment to accelerate his arrival. Our son turned the saying “Hurry up and wait” upside down; we waited—then he hurried up. A nurse in the room saw me suddenly start to push, and ran to get the doctor who was on call. He raced into the room, mere seconds before our squalling little sweetheart shot out, and into the world. Good catch, Doc!

Steve called my parents—but then immediately called the box office at RSCT. Could someone please announce the glad tidings prior to the show? Of course! We learned later that there was a rousing round of applause for this news, and then the happy crowd of theatregoers settled down to watch the substitute show.

Chatter delighted the folks with his stunts and pratfalls. Now, as someone who really hates/fears clowns, this response seems inexplicable to me, but hey! To each his/her own! Things were going swimmingly, until the fire juggling part of the act. Yes. Fire juggling. On a small (carpeted) stage in a theatre filled with children. Oh, Chatter! You silly! Thankfully, no one was injured. But alas, the lovely carpeting was singed when things got slightly out of control.

33 years later, the memory of Evan’s pre-show birth announcement is still, I’m sure, overshadowed in the minds of those Rehoboth patrons in attendance by “hotter” stuff. After all, anyone can have a baby on opening night. But not everyone can almost burn the theatre down, right?

We went on to have several more children, but lesson learned. We never hired a fire-juggling clown again. 

33 years later...another opening night (sans flames)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Feelin' Not so Groovy

August makes the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the psychedelic rock festival that pretty much summed up the late ‘60s. I was only 12, but I was fascinated by the far-out scene captured on film. Those VW buses painted with flowers and peace symbols! Those throngs of uninhibited young people, singing and swaying and screaming to Jimi and Janis! I couldn’t wait to be old enough to be a hippie!

By the time I reached my late teens everything was Saturday Night Fever, and no one was wearing love beads anymore. Instead of flowing dresses and daisies in my hair, I wore clothes with shoulder pads that made me look like a linebacker. And while I attended my share of concerts, none of them seemed remotely like the wild weekend on that upstate New York farm.

Life went on, until my teenage offspring were attending their own concerts and festivals, featuring their own music gods and goddesses. And one day I woke up and I was 62, and it was fifty years since the Summer of Love, and my flower child dreams were a lifetime ago.

But sometimes, sometimes, you get a second chance. This past week, I went up to the Poconos with my friends Holly and Mary Ellen for a few days. It rained on Thursday, and Holly suggested we go visit a museum—but not just any museum. We were, as it turns out, only a 40 minute drive from Bethel Woods. The site of Woodstock. And on the grounds there is now a performing arts center, as well as a museum. Yay! Who cared that we were driving a sensible, un-stencilled car, and had no marijuana with us? We were about to experience a taste of 1969!

As we drove, the traffic grew heavier. Clearly others had the same groovy idea! But then the cars started to move. At the entrance to the complex, a young police officer stood, checking every vehicle and then waving it through. When it was our turn, Holly confidently rolled down her window and explained that we weren’t attending the music festival already in progress there, just the museum.

“You don’t want to go there,” he intoned solemnly, shaking his head. “It’s nuts, very loud and crowded and crazy. You all REALLY don’t want to go in. Look, here’s a spot where you can turn around!” Totally thrown, we obeyed, and found ourselves driving away. But then it hit us. Wait a minute! Do we look like we are that ancient? Like we can’t handle a little noise and craziness? The more we thought about it, the more irritated we became—though not enough to re-enter the long queue of vehicles. It’d be our luck that Officer Baby Face would just turn us back again. And so, disappointed, we conceded rock festival defeat.

Home in Oreland, it still rankles. I missed two chances at Woodstock, and I probably won’t get a third.

Darn it.

I think I’ll go tie dye something.