There's nothing quite like an upbeat ending to a family vacation to make you smile whenever you think about the time together.
You never know where those moments are going to come from, but we stumbled into one--and almost let it get away--on a three-day mini-vacay with our grown daughter and her daughter.
Weeks before we convened for a planned get-together in Williamstown, Mass., I had spotted an ad for the Pirates of Penzance at a theater in nearby Pittsfield. Pateramilias and I are Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiasts. During our hands-on-parenting days we had converted our daughter to an appreciation of their pointed silliness. The hope was to pass the baton to the next generation, specifically to an almost 14-year-old currently enthralled with the score and lyrics for Hamilton. (Can I note here--yes I can, it's my blog--that there is a similarity in the cleverness of the rhymes of both lyricists.) For all I knew, though, this show in Pittsfield would be an amateur production that might be more of a turn off than a turn on.
That was one of the reasons I did not advance-purchase the tickets. Another was that there's many a slip 'tween the cup (vacation plans) and the lip (actual arrival of all parties at a given place and time). In our case, our daughter and her family would be getting back from a business/pleasure trip in Europe two days before our scheduled get-together. Would they be too jet-lagged to drive the nearly three hours from their home to Williamstown?
I may have put off the purchase, but theater was very much on my mind. Our Grand has an interest in it and what better place to be than Williamstown, which has a first-rate summer theater. So when daughter and Grand showed up as scheduled on a Tuesday, I bought tickets to a show at the Williamstown theater. We weren't terrifically interested in the play (The Chinese Room)--Paterfamilias went so far as to refuse to have a ticket purchased for him--but on Tuesday nights, the director and cast stay around after the show to talk to the audience about the production. I thought my Grand would love a glimpse of the inside story.
No doubt she would have, except that by 6:00 p.m., as we picked our way through a pre-theater dinner, it was clear neither mother nor daughter would be able to stay awake for the show. Jet lag was upon them.
I tried to turn the tickets in for a refund but that was a no-go. After some polite pleading and the addition of a $3 a ticket fee, the theater let me exchange the tickets for the next night--upping my investment in seeing this show to nearly $200 for three of us. But Wednesday night would be our last one together--we had to make our separate ways home on Thursday. There would be no time to see Pirates, which both PF and our daughter expressed a great preference in seeing.
What to do? I knew when to fold 'em. I am usually very conservative when it comes to parsing out my entertainment dollars. But the $200 for The Chinese Room was spent whether we saw it or not. Wednesday morning I called the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield and snagged four of the last tickets for Pirates available that night. We were double booked, so to speak.
What a great decision that was. This Pirates of Penzance was like a bubbly tonic. The director and cast milked it for every bit of nonsense in it--even some that was not. (The NYTimes reviewed it a few days later and called it "exhilarating.") But more than that, it made PF and I deliriously happy: we were all together; our daughter laughed out loud all the way through it and so did our Grand, who , even as she enters her teen years, retains "a capacity for innocent enjoyment." We came away from the show feeling light of heart and exhilarated.
We talked about nothing else on the ride back to Williamstown and through breakfast the next morning. By the time we parted for our separate journeys home, we had gone over almost every bit of scenery, choreography and song we could remember. Since then, PF and I have clicked on YouTube and heard many another version of the songs. Every time we hear the trumpet's martial sound (Tarantula, Tarantula) we smile at the remembrance of the show and how much fun we had together--even though the three-days of togetherness had its ups and downs.
Is my Grand a new G&S fan? The music, she allowed, was not to her taste but she found the show "really funny." She was delighted with the policeman's lot, despite it being "not a happy one," and with the swaggering of the Pirate King. "It is, it is a glorious thing"--not only to be the Pirate King but to end a vacation on such a high note.