A few weeks ago, I made it my mission to get my parents down to Charlottesville for a visit. I had to be crafty. They’re not ones to travel just for the heck of it. I had to either come up with a reason why I desperately needed their help, or to lure them here on the pretext that their grandchildren wanted them to attend some major performance.
As it turned out, all last week my children were involved in putting together the musical “Jonah and the Whale” that was to be performed at church during the worship service on Sunday. BINGO!
My oldest son helped paint the whale. We shall not dwell on the fact that in the process, he left a permanent grey splotchy outline of the whale’s tail on the wall of the Sunday School classroom against which it had been propped. My second son helped create some of the other props and was one of the three “whalers,” who had to maneuver the great cardboard beast into the sanctuary and back out again. He was hidden behind it the whole time.
More promising was the fact that my daughter was performing in the play, would be visible, and had a speaking part.
After two weeks of tricky and heated negotiations that made the recent Iran nuclear deal look like a cakewalk, I finally managed to convince my parents to come. Not for the weeklong visit that I had optimistically proposed. That would be too long for my dad to be away from his beloved garden. Not even for the three days that would have allowed them to travel back with my husband and daughter, who happened to be going to Maryland on Monday and could have easily dropped them off in Arlington en route. No. The best I could wrangle out of the deal was for me to drive up on Friday after work and bring them down on Saturday. They wanted to leave on Sunday after the service so that my dad could fulfill a longstanding appointment he had on Monday. This would mean a five hour drive for me on Sunday, and ten hours of total driving time over the weekend, but I took the deal and felt lucky to have managed it on those terms.
“So, do you have a big part, T?” I hopefully, anxiously asked my daughter in the week leading up to the performance.
“I have one line,” she replied.
My heart sank a little.
“What’s the line?”
“Why. not.” she said, emphasizing each word with cruel banality.
“OK, listen, kid. Not to put too much pressure on you or anything, but Grandma and Grandpa are traveling 5 hours just to hear you say those two words. You better milk them for all their worth! Could you maybe fall to your knees as you say ‘Why not?!?!‘ Maybe you could shake your fists at the sky and squeeze out a few tears while you do it?”
She stared at me and remained maddeningly silent.
When I arrived at my parents’ house on Friday night, I felt compelled to confess to them that they were traveling all the way to Charlottesville to listen to my daughter say, “Why not?” They seemed to take this news in stride with their sphinx-like smiles, but I still felt uneasy.
We drove down on Saturday and met up with my husband and kids at Peter Chang’s China Grill for lunch. Peter Chang is the elusive, famous chef for whose cuisine dedicated foodies cross state lines to eat. He’s been written about in publications such as The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Bon Appétit. Bubble pancakes were the answer. Bubble pancakes would make the trip to Charlottesville worth it!
You can’t get bubble pancakes in Arlington!
“Is this the same Peter Chang, who just opened up a new restaurant right near our house?” my mother asked.
Why, yes. Yes, it is.
The big day finally arrived. Everyone who participated in the play in some way had made a tie dye shirt to wear as their costume. My mother crowed with delight and clapped her hands as each of her grandchildren filed past her to be admired..
I went up to change into my own shirt.
“I don’t think I can wear my shirt. It’s so ugly, it’s embarrassing,” I said sheepishly.
“Yes, it is.” my mother replied.
I went up to change.
We went to church and settled ourselves in the pew.
The musical was beautifully executed. The singers performed the catchy numbers with enthusiasm and true musicality. The acting was heartfelt and genuine.
My daughter at long last delivered her line: “Why not?”
I turned to look at my mom and we both started shaking with laughter. She had to clap her hand over her mouth so as not to yelp out loud. Tears streamed from our eyes and we shook the pew with our silent laughter for a good five minutes.
If you were to ask me if those ten hours of driving were worth it for those five minutes of laughter, I’d answer: Absolutely…Why not?