KarateKid and I had a marvelous, magical mom-and-me road trip today.
We had 3 tickets to see a theatrical version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in a town about an hour away, and I’d planned to take both the kids. But Aunt Robin is a public school teacher & was on spring break this week, and she had been promising GoGoGirl a day just with her to shop and eat, and we decided that this would be a great day to do that. So KarateKid had just me for 7 hours, and GoGoGirl had Aunt Robin all to herself too.
Although we’ve been a functional family of four for 2 1/2 years, KarateKid was already 5 when GoGoGirl came home, and so he remembers very clearly what our life was like before she arrived and how I was able to devote myself to him all day, every day. Who wouldn’t miss that? He sometimes mentions “the old days” very wistfully, and today was just the perfect way to give him that alone time that he craves.
The day started with a nice hour-long drive. We talked about all kinds of things, from the differences between books and movies and live theater, to how to give directions by the clock (bogeys at two o’clock!), to the places, animals, and cars we saw. We got to the theater nice and early and chatted with some other homeschooling families in the lobby.
The play was fun – similar to the TheatreWorks performances we had seen in the past. It had a cast of four: Mrs. Frankweiler, Claudia, Jamie, and “The Man of Many Hats,” who was the taxi driver, the museum guard, the butler, the museum curator, etc. The abbreviated story was told with plenty of little songs, and we enjoyed the performance. We sat with another family who is part of our Shakespeare Experience and so we talked a little with the kids about not only watching the show but also looking at the way they did things from a backstage point-of-view. KarateKid and I talked a lot about the one plain table that was a table, a stool, a taxi, the train, the bottom legs of the bed, and so on.
After the play ended, we walked two chilly blocks to a small art museum that we’d spied on our way into town. I wasn’t sure if it would be open, but I’d spotted a banner about a “Fairy Tale Art” exhibit and wanted to give it a try. Boy, am I glad we did!
The museum had been the private home of a wealthy man who was a collector & art enthusiast, who willed the house to the city as a museum around 1910. One room of the house was built in order to be his art hall, and the art that is on display in that room is the same art, in the same places, as he had arranged it.
We were the only guests for the whole hour we were there, and we only saw one curator and one man behind the scenes doing a little cleaning. The curator took us into the main hall and told us the story of the family and the house, and when she paused, KarateKid pointed to a statue and asked if it was Hermes. She was duly impressed – of course! – and he went on to identify a few of the other statues from mythology. She very nicely talked to us about one of the paintings which depicted Theseus abandoning Ariadne on Naxos, with Dionysus spying from behind a tree. She chatted with KarateKid about how fascinating it was that the person who had painted that painting in the 1800′s knew and loved the same stories that KarateKid knows and loves today.
After we explored the main hall for a while, we went into the exhibit that is getting the most attention right now – an exhibit of the work of author and illustrator Tedd Arnold (Fly Guy, Green Wilma, Parts), who lived in that area until he was 10. KarateKid and I had such a marvelous time looking at the illustrations and remembering which books they were from, and he also got a huge kick out of seeing Mr. Arnold’s sketches or original ideas. He liked seeing the notes on notebook paper, and seeing how a tiny sketch of an idea turned into a finished illustration. I liked the wall of images from The Twin Princes, where he had originally thought of them as otters, later tried a super-realistic illustration style, and finally moved to the goggle-eyed chickens that we love.
Then we went upstairs and admired the art in a hallway gallery. KarateKid was captivated by a piece of found-art that used, among other things, a dressmaker form, a suitcase, chains, and the valve from a boiler. He came back to it several times and loved the way the artist had used all kinds of things to make one interesting creation.
Next it was on to a gallery of Fairy Tale art, featuring the art of several illustrators, including Demi, Kinuko Craft, Jane Dyer, Marilee Heyer, Barry Moser, Jim LaMarche, etc. That was fun, too, to see how differently the artists had conceived of favorite fairy tales. KarateKid was excited to see the original art by Demi – one of his favorite books is The Donkey and the Rock.
Already fantastic, right? Imagine his excitement when we left that gallery and found a tiny gallery, with about 8 glass cases… of Egyptian artifacts. I won’t ever forget his little hand pressed into the glass as it dawned on him that these weren’t illustrations, or recreations, but actual pieces of art that had been held, and molded, and sculpted, by a Real Ancient Egyptian really in Ancient Egypt. There were shabti and scarabs and a beaded net from a child mummy, and a cartouche, and even more. They also had an x-ray of a mummy from a local college. In the 1970′s, an intern at the art museum asked to x-ray the mummy to determine cause of death. They found out the mummy was an 18-year-old girl with arthritis, but couldn’t find out the cause of death.
When KarateKid was chatting with the curator on our way out, and told her how excited he was by the Egyptian (and Babylonian) artifacts, she mentioned that those had also been collected by the home’s original owner. He thought that was really neat too.
I wish I had pictures, but at the theater and the museum we couldn’t take any pictures at all. Here is KarateKid outside the museum, though!
We walked back to where the car was parked, and because we hadn’t seen any restaurants in that area, we drove to a mall about 10 minutes down the road. KarateKid and I went to Chili’s, which we don’t have here, and he hadn’t been to since he was a toddler. We split a big combo plate because there weren’t ribs on the kids menu and he is really, really a rib-lover. The combo plate came with corn-on-the-cob too, and though we were “sharing” it I think he only gave me about three bites! He loved it. I think he felt extra-special that we were sharing a meal, and we shared a dessert too.
All day he kept hugging me and reaching out to hold my hand and telling me how awesome this day was. At lunch, he toasted to “Our Day” at least five times! I’m glad he felt the magic as much as I did. What a great day!