Recently, while I was visiting the laser center, I spotted a poster with a picture of a beautiful mermaid. Now, for those of you who don't know me that well, I happen to LOVE LOVE LOVE mermaids. Beautiful, ethereal creatures who are depicted as both saving men from drowning and, at other times "accidentally" squeezing the life out of them as they attempt to pull them to shore...hey, I didn't come up with the idea...I just really like it. Anyhow, I have always loved mermaids and of course, so does Ava Grace. I figured this was a fantastic opportunity to see a live show, close by, with local performers, featuring one of my favorite mystical creatures. I say favorite because I also happen to love unicorns--yes, I really said that (feel free to take a moment and let it sink in).
Anyhow, last week Ava graduated from preschool and I was already missing the daily contact I had with some of my girlfriends so, I decided to make it a double date, a mother/daughter outing for both myself and one of my good friends. She accepted the invite, we got babysitters and met at the Olive Garden (Ava loves that place). My friend and I shared a bottle of cheap wine, a few funny stories and some mediocre pasta, then it was off to the show. Now, right away, I should have known something was not right when we arrived at the address on the poster and it was the Masonic Temple. Apparently the Mason's are into mermaids too. My friend asked how much the tickets cost, I told her it was free as long as we became Masons before the night was over. I mean how hard could it be right...a few simple handshakes, a couple of rituals, declare our belief in the "Supreme Being" and learn the art of making bricks then VOILA!...we're golden. When we arrived we asked the hostess where to pick up our tickets, she pointed to a woman with a ticket box who asked for our names (as if to look up our purchase info) and then to our surprise (and horror)--from memory--she told us we we're in the front row and would find our seats labeled with our names. Not yet sufficiently freaked out we went in to join the other 10 people at the show and found them (our seats) as promised, labeled with our names smack dab in the middle of the front row.
Now, it wasn't long into the performance when I realized this was not a show ABOUT mermaids but actually a performance of the "The Little Mermaid", and...not the familiar Disney version with a sassy crustacean singing about the pleasures of living beneath the sea. In fact, it was quite the opposite, it was the dark and cynical Macbeth style version where Ariel must kill the prince if she wants to become a mermaid again and return to the sea after a failed attempt at love. Uh...OK. My first reaction was...whatchu talkin' bout Willis? Ariel's going to do what? That's not how the story goes. Then I realized, I had never read the Hans Christian Andersen version of the story. At this point, I was a little overwhelmed. In fact, I was quite upset since I had my 5 year old daughter with me AND earlier in the week I had specifically called on the phone to make sure this was a kid friendly performance. "Oh yes, kids love it" (that's what the lady on the phone said). Really? Who's kids--Ozzy Osbourne? Not my kid, that's for sure. I wasn't sure how much more I could handle. I mean, come on people...I had already turned the other cheek when the mermaids came out looking more like Britney Spears meets Morticia Adam's in costumes that were clearly made for an MTV video, NOW I had to be subjected to witnessing an underwater execution by a pissed off merwhore? What next? I couldn't possibly imagine.
Fortunately for my daughter's sake, Hans Christian Andersen viewed woman as being forlorn and passive when it comes to love. So, believing that Ariel would rather parish then kill her Prince, that's exactly what he had her do...she just up and died. "Ugh" that's what I said as her sisters carried the lifeless, heartbroken mermaid off stage. I mean come on...Ariel made a deal with the evil sea witch in order to become human just to be with Prince Eric. She gave up her voice, her charmed life beneath the sea and all of the things she knew in order to take a chance on love and then he falls in love with someone else? I mean REALLY. All of a sudden I was pissed...I thought "that DICK!" I felt myself secretly wishing she had killed him. However, it was at that moment, that strange, disconcerting moment I was overcome with the desire to see a mermaid get medieval on a man, that I happened to look down at my baby girl sitting beside me...softly weeping. I knew instantly what was wrong--she was devastated, heartbroken. She simply could not contain her disappointment about this play not having a "happy ending". That magical, romantic love story that makes it worth sitting through the scary parts of movies like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. That eternal, undying love between a Prince and his chosen one that Disney has fed us for the last 15 years. I was truly caught off guard. I didn't know how to handle this situation. I mean, lets face it, I know how to handle boys. They are simple, straight forward, easy to read creatures that can be physically coerced and verbally assaulted into submission. But I didn't really know how to deal with such emotional pain, such tenderness, such vulnerability. I looked down at her sad little face, I wiped away her tears and kissed her cheek, then I said, "Oh Honey, I know it's sad, but really...she's better off without him". And then it hit me, the anger, the resentment, the homicidal tendencies towards men...good Lord, I was possessed by my late grandmother Geraldine. It was all I could do not to yell out my favorite line from the Hunchback "sanctuary...sanctuary".
I tried to collect myself for Ava's sake and put aside my murderous feelings toward the Prince (that BASTARD). At the end of the performance we got up and left the theater, though, I must admit it was difficult, those Mason's...they don't want to let you out once they've gotten you in the temple. We tip toed down many hallways and what seemed like secret passage ways. We even ended up in what I thought was some kind of hidden Scooby Doo room you can only enter by leaning against the door frame in a special way. At this point, I was sure we had to join "the order" in order to get the hell out of this building. I looked around to see if anyone was doing the secret "exit" handshake when I noticed a dimly lit sign above a stairwell, it said "EXIT". Hallelujah, we've been saved.
We left the Temple of Doom and went into the parking lot to find our car. Ava had recovered from the trauma and asked if we could get an ice cream. "Of course" I said. I looked at her beautiful little face...the window to her sweet soul and tried to just love her, in all of her tenderness and vulnerability, just simply love her and be there with her in that moment. I tried not to think about what the future might hold for her, what kind of heartaches might be in store for my precious Ava, but I couldn't help it. As we headed to Baskin Robin's I knew in my heart this would probably be the first of many trips to the ice cream store where I would try to help my heartbroken daughter drowned her sorrows in a bowl of rocky road. Unless of course the trauma of the mermaid show coupled with her genetic predisposition had her turning out more like Grandma Geraldine...then I would probably be trying to prevent a Macbeth style execution of a high school boyfriend. Either way, she can count on me to be there, loving her unconditionally every step of the way.