October Thirty One-th

october-30-2010-first-tooth-gone-tooth-fairy-pillowJust had a conversation with a small friend.  A very close friend.  She reported that the first baby tooth has come out.  First tooth fairy payoff received this morning. Her “Belle” princess costume is ready for trick or treating.  Birthday party invitations were just sent out for a November date.  When asked about so much going on, the five year old said that yes, she is very excited.  She said, “Today is October thirty.  Tomorrow is the thirty one-th and after that is November and that’s my birthday year.”

You go girl.  Celebrate all over the place. Stretch it out as far as it’ll go. Make it last, and I’ll join your party in progress. Soon enough the world sends us reminders about real life, some of them the distinctly non-celebratory kind.  So let’s get started on your birthday right away and keep it going all year.

Toddlers Rewrite Everything.

While I drive, the little girl in my life sings me some songs.  In the middle of lyrics about, say, the wheels on the bus going round and round, she tosses in a line or two from adult songs she’s heard.  Songs about heartache or other grown-up feelings.  It’s always a surprise to hear which phrases resonate with her.  A typical re-write goes like this:

“The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round.

And my heart misses you forever and I want you to come back right now.”

When she’s not singing, she tells me stories.  She draws in a big breath, indicating something dramatic is about to occur, and begins, 

“Awe duh sodden.”

It takes a couple of seconds to figure out the words, but her emphasis helps.

Ohhh.  “All of a sudden…”

What follows are a whole bunch of sentences, spilling out in a rush, about three pigs or Belle from Beauty & The Beast, or Cinderella or Spiderman.  She starts off fairly true to the version she’s heard, then changes direction and lays down a new plot point.  Something like,

“And Cinderella stayed in the little house and the wuff couldn’t blow it down.”

Just as she’s hooked me with this twist, she announces, 

“The end.”

I teach her songs from my own musical library.  She likes a song to fit into a category.  If you don’t clarify, she’ll ask what kind of song is this?  On the way to school, I say,

“Let’s sing a morning song.”

She’s fine with that.

I start with a tune from Annie Get Your Gun (not too subtly trying to teach  some Broadway tunes) 

“Got no diamonds, got no pearls. 

Still I think I’m a lucky girl. 

I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night

And with the sun in the morning and the moon in the evening, I’m all right.”

She can only take this much before the urge to re-write hits her.  She says she will now sing that song for me. Away she goes,  with an approximation of the melody and a new version of the lyrics, 

“I don’t have any jewels.  I’m not happy.”

Terse.   To the point.

Irving Berlin it’s not, but it’s not bad either.  With the pre-schooler rewriting, a Broadway show would be over in about 15 minutes. 

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Disney’s New Princesses

Cinderella was the first movie I ever saw. While I watched it over and over again, my brother was in a neighboring theatre watching The Sands of Iwo Jima just as many times.  After leaving the theatre, the best I could do to keep the dream alive was sing those movie songs at home. 

 

Of course when my own daughter came along, seeing Cinderella together was a crucial rite of passage.

 

Fifty years after I first saw the movie, I recently ordered Cinderella on DVD for a little girl I’m fond of, but before handing it over I had to check out all the special features, including interviews with the animation team who put the story together and the stories behind the songs.

 

Did you know that’s Mike Douglas singing the role of the Prince?  And Perry Como debuted songs from the movie on his television show even before it opened?  

 

Finally we sat down to watch, my daughter, my three year old granddaughter and me.

 

Those birds and mice still put together a heckuva ball gown.  The cat is still sneaky and the stepmother is still the epitome of mean.

 

But oh that music!  The fairy tale soprano singing A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makesthe chirpy animals singing about “Cinderelly” while trying to help her get to the ball, Sing Sweet Nightingale at the music lesson, and the Prince and Cinderella dancing to So This Is Love 

 

For our youngest family member, it’s the “Godmudder” who takes her fancy with the song, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.

 

The little girl I’m spending time with today doesn’t really want to watch for more than a few minutes at a time. She wants to be Cinderella.  Cinderella is more than a movie.  It’s her own personal script. It’s that way too with Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Ariel and Belle from Beauty & The Beast. Their likenesses exist on every item of merchandise a little girl wears, sleeps with, eats from and carries off to preschool.

 

She has her own DVD players for the car and home.  Her own CD collection for the road zips inside a holder that looks like a ladybug and unfolds to reveal all of the traditional nursery rhymes set to music – and now the Disney soundtracks.  

 

Her friends have Princess Parties.  And the Magic Kingdom has elaborate parties of their own.  I know one little girl who traveled from Manhattan to Disneyland with her family to attend.  

 

In my granddaughter’s interactive world, the two words we hear most often are:  Pause it.  If we’re lucky, it’s three, Pause it please.

 

Pause it please.  Let me get my princess skirt.  Pause it please.  Let me get my tiara.  Pause it.  Magic wand.  Pause it.  Watch me dance. Pause it please.  I want to sing that song.

 

When I was a girl, I could watch the princesses only on a Saturday down at the Alex Theatre.  Today every girl becomes a princess.  Smart move, Disney.

 

Ó Anita Garner 2008