When my then-22-month-old daughter began crying for all the world and articulating exactly why she was so distraught, I knew two things: 1) Mary was going to be very, very bright, and 2) My melodramatic streak evidently does not skip a generation. As we drove home from Cape Cod, my not even two year old sobbed because we had left behind a random pink folding chair that had been for sale at a roadside ice cream stand.
"My chaaaair!" she wailed, hitting the window with tiny palms and startling a newborn Anna. "My chaaaair is gone! It GOIN' AWAAAAAY!" From Eastham to Hyannis, all the way past Falmouth, she kept up the battle cry until passing out sometime around Fall River.
3) My daughter is tenacious.
So now, at five, Miss Mary is ready to embrace the life theatrical. She's seen me trot off to rehearsals and been to a couple of dress techs with variable success (she adored 42nd Street but loudly asked a fellow cast member "are all plays boring like this?" at another). And we've gone from "Mommy, can I come see your play?" to "Mommy, can I be in your play?"
"Soon," I told her. "Mommy will keep her eyes open for a play that's right for you, and when I find one, you can audition."
"It's where you go, and if it's a musical, you sing a song," I said. "And if you're right for the play, the director lets you be in it, and if you're not what he or she is looking for, that's okay, and you try again another time." (Way to sugar coat it, Mommy, but we're dealing with a preschooler here.)
"Okay!" she said, and promptly decided she wanted to learn "Castle on a Cloud" from Les Miserables. And she did. All three verses and the bridge. In tune. With hand motions. No, I'm not leaning on hyperbole here. Sometime I'll post a video.
"There are other things you can do, too," I said, when the subject came up again tonight. "There's a theater camp nearby and when you're old enough, we can sign you up for that."
"How old do I have to be?"
"You have to be old enough to read," I said. "Really read, not just know the words to your favorite stories. When Mommy can open a book, any book, and point to a word, and you can tell me what it says, you'll be ready."
"Let's start now!" she cried, dashing to the bookshelf. "I'll get a book!"
"Not 'Gossie,'" I amended. "Not one where you know all the words by heart."
She paused and grabbed another picture book.
"Not 'The Best Word Book Ever,'" I said. "All of the words are right next to the matching pictures."
Another pause, another book.
"That one is in German," I said. "The fact that you can't tell it's in German doesn't bode well for this experiment."
Another book. 'Farmer Boy' by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
"That says 'farmer,'" Mary said triumphantly.
"It does," I said. "How about this one?"
"Look at the letters, what letters are they?"
"Right, put those sounds together."
"No, the sounds," I said. "Buh--"
"No, hon, it says 'boy.' You're not ready yet, that's okay. You will be soon."
"HOW ABOUT TOMORROW?"
"Sure, baby. Tomorrow."
Like I said, tenacious.