So I used to have a blog before this one...you may have read about it here...and I sometimes wrote stories about the dumb, embarassing things I was prone to do. Some of them are pretty funny...so I am going to repost them here every once in a while.
Working in Entertainment at Disney is perhaps one of the most bizarre things a person can do in their life time. The general atmosphere of the performers is that of "G" level celebrities. If you were to spread them around the world, all the performers at Disney would fade into the background with their spandex tights and overdone make-up and no one would ever notice them; but put 2,000 or so G-list 'celebs' in close enough space that their egos all start to collide, and you have one VERY dramatic work environment. Although I do plan on writing more about this entire experience some day, I thought I would tide you all over with this fun story...
I am 5 feet, 11 inches tall. In Disney terms, that means I am Tigger height. I used to be 5 feet, 11 ½ inches tall. But due to one too many times in the hip bone crushing "great wall of China" (above left) and spine melting, 55 lb, spinning/dancing/basically-ignored-by-everyone-viewing-the-parade pagoda (above right), I lost ½ an inch. This may not seem like a big deal, but at Disney, it meant the world. There is a ½ inch grace on all of the height ranges. The tallest height range is 6’ and above. That height range encompasses Goofy, Woody, Baloo, Captain Hook, Queen of Hearts and others. Tigger height range is 5’ 9” to 5’ 11”. The only thing in Tigger’s height range is Tigger.
Ok…so I know that is pointless drivel...but I find it important to the story. Anyway, there are two more things that I think you should know as background before I can start the story. 1) The height range for Sweetums (the monster at MuppetVision 3D who tosses the ‘water’ out at the audience) is 6’ and above (Goofy height). I was trained as a Sweetums** before being demoted to Tigger height and was ‘grandfathered’ and allowed to continue doing the show, even though I was an inch out of the height range. 2) The height range for Beast in the Beauty and the Beast (B&B) show is 6’1” and above...the height range for Mrs. Potts is 5’ 8” to 5’ 10”. There are lots of Beast/Sweetums trained people. I became the first, and probably only, Sweetums/Potts trained person in the history of Disney...and this is why:
Through a series of very surprising events, I had recently been selected to learn the Mrs. Potts track at B&B. After going through the rehearsals and being ‘approved’ in the role, I was scheduled for my first day of shows a few days after I finished training. I was very eager to show all the people who were whispering about my being a Potts/Sweetums that I was up to the task.
The Mrs. Potts costume is basically a backpack that you climb into and snap on. The actor’s head is inside the pink ball at the top of ‘her’ pot. (see picture to the right)At her base, there is a plastic oilcloth that protects the underneath of the costume from getting dirty if it hits the ground while you are performing.
Like I said, I was really excited to do my first show; so when it came time for me to make my grand entrance, I revved up all my energy and burst out onto the stage. I had taken no more than 10 steps when my foot started to catch on the oilcloth under the skirting and I lost complete control of my footing and fell over. There was an audible gasp from the packed audience as I rolled a few feet and landed on my side, suspended by the backpack in the middle of the costume with my legs kicking out the end. The gasps turned to giggles and then to full-out laughter as I desperately tried to get up from my suspended position within the costume.
The B&B show is on a track so the rest of the scene was still going on while I writhed around on the floor. Eventually, a few stage hands came over and tipped me upright so that I could stand up. But here is where it got really difficult. You see, I was laughing so hard I could barely contain myself and my legs were like jello. When the stage hands propped me up, my legs were now in a crouched position beneath me and try as I might, I could not stand up. The weight of the costume, combined with the suction-cup effect of the plastic sheeting against the stage, plus my inability to stop laughing along with all 1,200 of the audience members was making the simple task of standing next-to impossible. I finally, in the nick-of-time, with seconds to spare before they shut down the whole show, got it together enough to rock myself forward, stand up and scamper off the stage to rousing applause.
After I finished the show, I got out of costume and was immediately handed the phone. It was scheduling telling me to go report to MuppetVision 3D, they needed a Sweetums.
Not surprisingly, I was never, ever scheduled for B&B again, and that outstanding performance as Mrs. Potts ended up being my only one.
** I stole this picture of Sweetums at the MuppetVision3D show from this web site.
Lately I have been thinking about home, and what that means to me. I grew up in a beautiful, coastal town in New Jersey (no, that is not an oxymoron). My mom and her brothers grew up in the town over from us. When I was a kid, my entire extended family on my mother's side lived within 10 miles of my home. Which meant that for birthday parties and holidays, we were always surrounded by family.
My grandparents have since passed.
My parents 'retired' to Florida and then unretired and moved to Pennsylvania where my sister is.
Two of my cousins are in North Carolina and New York, respectively. Their parents defected to North Carolina a few years ago.
And now, only my Aunt and Uncle and their son live in NJ.
My husband and I are in Boston and we have every intention of staying here for a long time.
There is no 'home' to move back to.
My husband actually has a similar story in that he grew up in Northwest Connecticut and his parents moved to Ohio when he was in college and now live in Pittsburgh. His Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and grandparents are spread out throughout the country...so he has no place to go 'home' to either.
Having a child has really driven home to me the fact that I don't have a traditional 'home town'. So much advice for new parents centers around having a support system of family and friends nearby to rely on. But we don't have family here. And while we have healthy friendship relationships here, there is no guarantee that any of them are planning on staying in our area for the long haul...you see, they all have their own places back 'home' to eventually return to.
When I was young, I totally took advantage of the fact that we celebrated Christmas morning at home with my parents and then headed two towns over to meet up with all the rest of my relatives at my grandparents' house for the big family holiday meal. Looking back, I wish I realized how lucky I was to be able to experience an intimate celebration with my mom and dad and sister on Christmas morning and then also get a rousing, heart-warming full family experience in the evening.
Here in Boston, we don't have that option. We will have to decide if we want to be in our own home for Christmas or visiting someone else's home in another state...but we can't have both. I wonder what Little G will grow up thinking is traditional...spending Christmas away from home? Spending Christmas quietly at home with just his mom and dad? Will he ever get to experience what life is like when you grow up where your entire family lives?
Perhaps the answer lies in challenging our definition of family. We are not the only ones of our friends here in the Boston area who are living far away from family. And slowly, our circle of friends is joining us in the great adventure of parenthood. Perhaps in the absence of relatives in the area, what we need to do is embrace our friendships and create a new type of family. Instead of having a quiet Christmas at home and then meeting all the Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and Grandparents later we can congregate with friends and neighbors and their children.
It's a good idea, in theory. The problem is, as time marches forward, our friends and neighbors keep moving back home.
My in-laws were coming later that night. I had a short list of things that needed to get done before leaving to pick up Little G from day care and heading on the the airport to pick up his grammy and grampy. I needed to clear off the guest bed, clean the bathrooms to a respectable level of grime, and start dinner. Sweeping up the downstairs would have been the icing on the cake. But first, I needed to drop off Little G at day care, go to my weekly mom group at my church and stop by my doctor's office quickly for a prescription.
The morning started out fairly easily. I successfully dropped off Little G and headed back to my house to pick up the snacks I had made for mommy group. (We take turns and before I knew my in-laws were coming, I had signed up to bring snacks for this particular Friday which is why I hadn't cleared off their bed or cleaned the bathrooms the night prior to their arrival since I was busy making granola, cutting fruit and baking a coffee cake.) I drove off to church and thoroughly enjoyed meeting with the wonderful group of women. But I would be lying if I didn't say that my mind was focused on the rest of the tasks that I needed to get done before heading to the airport. When we were finished meeting, instead of heading right off, I stayed to clean up (part of the duties of the people assigned to bring snack each week) so I found myself trying to quickly finish up so I could get on my way.
In the midst of all of this, I had read a post from a woman I know who fosters children that they had a baby for the weekend and they were trying to find the slowest flowing nipple they could since the baby had some pretty severe gastrointestinal problems. I had recommended the ones we used for Little G and suggested that I could pick one up for her while I was out...it was on the way to the Doctors' office...what harm could that be?
When I got to the store to pick up the bottle, the didn't have any in stock. So I quickly headed back out to the car to continue on my way to the Doctor's. Except when I got there, my keys were dangling out of the steering wheel and my doors were locked.
Time to rethink.
Ok...I'll pump the meter with quarters...since I'm behind this movie theater, I think it takes up to three hours. Then I'll just grab the T and ride a few stops down to my doctor appointment. Then, I'll continue downtown and meet my husband and get his key to my car and take the T back to my car and then I'll go home. I'll probably only have two hours instead of five to get my chores done, but all is not lost.
So out to the T I headed. I quickly realized I had no money on me (since I just pumped my last quarter, nickle and dime into the meter for my car) and dashed into a bank to use the ATM...I caught the T just as it was leaving the station and was promptly told I needed a Charlie Card or something smaller than a $20. Oops. Thankfully, the conductor let it slide and a few stops down I got out and headed to the Doctor...confident that I could get smaller change from them and continue on my way.
There was one problem. I was seeing a new doctor...which meant I needed to fill out a bunch of forms. So after spending the time filling those out and then waiting for an eternity and then having to go through the indignity of having my weight taken and then waiting in the actual examination room for ANOTHER eternity, my quick Doctor trip turned into an hour and fifteen minute time suck. Fortunately, I was able to get some small bills from them as well as a promise that they would call in my prescription on my way out, so I jetted off to catch the T to get downtown to meet my husband.
The ride on the T was pretty non-eventful until we got a little closer into the city and it started to really smell like smoke. As we pulled into Arlington Station, there were firemen in uniform traipsing down the stairwell one after another after another. This couldn't be good.
Fortunately, I got off a few stops later and successfully met my husband and got his key and turned right around and got back on the T and then BAM.
I'm sorry, folks. There seems to be a signal issue up ahead at Arlington. The fire department is asking us to suspend service. They're telling us it will be at least 15 minutes.
I nervously looked at my watch...it was 3:20. I had about 50 minutes to get back to my car before getting a ticket (and yes, I would have gotten one...those meter maids in that part of non-Boston are greedy-greedy-greedy). But what was I going to do...I was stuck on a subway car in an aging transportation system just waiting for someone to give someone else the go-ahead to head into the fire! It dawned on me that when I DID finally get to my car, I wasn't going to have nearly as much time as I had originally thought to get my chores at home done and something was going to have to give...especially since now I was going to have to add in 'pick up prescription' to the mix.
Finally, after an eternity (really, only 25 minutes) the T started moving. People were so glad, they applauded! I just stayed focused on my goal...determining just what was more important to my mother in law...cleaned off bed, clean bathrooms or dinner.
The train finally pulled into the area where I was parked and I ran to my car. With 15 minutes left on the meter, I felt good about getting to the pharmacy, getting home, getting at least one of my chores done and heading to go get Little G and then off to the airport. But it was Friday afternoon...and Friday afternoon traffic isn't anyone's friend. My mental list of what chore I should get done before leaving the house was getting smaller and smaller. Perhaps if I just cleaned the toilets and the sinks my mother-in-law wouldn't notice? Maybe I would just make the scalloped potatoes and worry about the main course when we all got home?
I finally made my way to the pharmacy, beat out an old-lady in a walker to get to the counter in the back of the store and breathlessly told them my name. No prescription. It wasn't ready yet.
WHAT?! THEY'VE HAD THREE HOURS!!! WHICH IS COINCIDENTALLY THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME IT HAS TAKEN ME TO GET HERE FROM THERE!! AND I HAVE TO PICK UP MY SON FROM DAY CARE FIVE MINUTES AGO!!!!!
Phew. I didn't actually yell, but I think the woman was clearly afraid for me. Which worked...because no sooner had I sat down and the elderly lady with a walker gotten to the counter, when they called my name to let me know my prescription was ready....once the old lady with a walker was done with her business at the counter.
Ten minutes later, I ran out of the pharmacy with my prescription in hand and flew the 1/2 mile back to my house where I hurled the items from the guest bed into our room, swiped the toilets with some old wipes and remembered to check the milk box for the delivery that I had set up the night before.
No milk. No OJ. No eggs. No cider. No English Muffins. No nothing.
Turns out I ordered all of those things to be delivered NEXT Friday. But I didn't have time to let that get to me because now I was REALLY late to pick up Little G.
I would LOVE to tell you that my day got better once I had finally gotten home...but the truth of the matter is that after picking up Little G, I waited in ridiculous traffic to get to the airport and when I finally got there, the entire lower level road for Terminal B was closed. CLOSED!!! WHO CLOSES A ROAD AT AN AIRPORT ON A FRIDAY NIGHT!!!
It was 6:00 when I finally found my in laws who had gotten in 45 minutes prior. 7:00 by the time we got home. 8:00 by the time Little G went to bed and we got dinner. 9:00 by the time I got to the supermarket to pick up all of those items that I had conveniently set up to be delivered to me...next week.
Sometimes, the day really has it out for you. I was proud of myself. I kept my perspective. I realized how lucky I was to have not had Little G with me for the whole adventure; how fortunate I was to not get a ticket; how I actually did get everything done but what needed to get done at home. But I was so glad to finally climb into bed, close my eyes and say goodbye to yesterday.
Little G and I attend a class for kids his age at the center where I took all of my birthing classes and all of our new mommy classes. It is not uncommon at any time when visiting the center to see a group of women, usually with napping babies in car seats atop snap-n-go strollers, gathered either on their way into or out of a new mommy class.
When I look at them I feel like I am on the outside looking in.
I remember being so new to being a mom that I CLUNG to my new mommy-group friends like they were life rafts in the vast sea of diapers and gas and spit up and non-napping. I never would have noticed someone just on the fringe of our group who had an older baby with her...heck...even if I HAD noticed that person, I would have thought they probably didn't have anything in common with me who was dealing with a boneless blob capable only of eating, sleeping and then being alert; rinse and repeat.
It is part of why motherhood, especially in these early years, is so freaking isolating. The reality is that I DON'T have a lot in common with a brand new mommy. Anything I could even remotely conjure up to say to her would carry the risk of being totally patronizing and/or scaring the pants off of her. Which is so weired, because in the grand scheme of things, our kids are only a year apart. In fact, depending on school systems and our kids, they may even be in the same grade someday.
Yet, for now, we are as separate from each other as those mothers I saw along my fringes the other day as they were all moving their kids into their freshman dorms at the local colleges -- we too have little in common and little time in our lives to try and create something. But I can't help but wonder what those moms would tell me if we were friends. Probably the same thing I would tell a new mom if we were friends:
Hold on tight.
The ride is fast.
You're doing a great job.
It gets easier.
You're going to get hurt.
Your heart is going to explode with awe...
...and one day you are going to blink, and they'll be all grown up.
I wanted a baby. But when I got the baby, it was NO WHERE CLOSE to what I thought it would be like. So I adapted and got used to having a baby. But just when I got used to having a baby...just when I finally felt like I knew what I was doing and I could sit back and relax a little bit...Little G became a toddler.
I didn't want a toddler.
When I first worked at Disney right out of college, I was placed at the front desk of the Contemporary resort. I totally thought before starting the gig that I was going to just sit at a desk in the middle of the 4th floor concourse with the monorail whizzing past every few minutes and maybe answer a question every once in a while or direct someone to the nearest bathroom. I couldn't have been more wrong.
It turned out that the front desk position was not only the gateway for guests to check in and out of their hotel rooms, but we also acted as a separate function of guest relations. We sold park tickets, ticket and room packages, set up dining plans, food and fun plans, money plans, show tickets, etc., etc., etc. It was a LOT to learn...and I should add...it wasn't even on the 4th floor.
For the first thirty days of our employment, we wore a separate ribbon on our name badges that said, "Earning my Ears". Like good training wheels, it was a way to indicate that we were new and might need some additional support or back-up and to be extra patient with us. Even though I eventually knew what I was doing so well that I became a trainer for new hires, I will admit, I wore that "Earning my Ears" ribbon for at least two weeks longer than I was supposed to just so people would cut me some slack.
In a way, I feel like having a small baby, is like getting to wear an "Earning my Ears" ribbon. People see you out and about with a small baby and they all know you are new and they all know you are probaby overwhelmed and emotional and distracted and they do wonderful things for you. They are nice to you. They help you. They are patient with you. They cut you some slack. Fast forward a year and even though you might be new to toddlerhood, the general public sees you with an older baby and just assumes that everything is alright. I know I used to.
But (for me) the truth is that everything isn't always alright. Sometimes, I am really struggling. There isn't necessarily less of a learning curve with a small toddler than there was with a newborn; it's just different. The challenges of a parenting a young toddler can be overwhelming at times and yet I'm expected, if not by myself, than definitely by society, to know what I'm doing and to be handling everything with grace and ease.
It makes me wish I could wear my "Earning my Ears" ribbon a little bit longer...or at least cut some slack in it.