All the singing, and all the dancing

This is the eleventh installment of the story of our journey with Maura…

When Maura was born, I remember being in awe of her long fingers.  My family comes from what my mom jokes as “good peasant stock”, with stubby fingers.  Maura’s were long and slender – piano playing fingers.  (I could never stretch my fingers long enough it seemed while learning the piano.)

I did have a couple minor visions of her mastering the piano.  Visions that disappeared after a while, once we realized she had delays.  Just one more little dream that had to be packed away.

And yet…

I love music.  I tried to learn piano, I did learn the clarinet for a while, I then joined choir in 8th grade and stayed with it through college.  My kids have had to put up with me blaring music in the car as I sing along to it.  I sound awesome in my car by the way.

Maura seemed to lean to things that played music and made noises.  After spending years hoarding the quietest toys possible, I found myself going out to buy new noisy toys, just so she’d interact with them more.  We had the little Fisher Price cookie jar that lit up and jingled when you put the shape in. We had that Leap Frog doll that sang and made noise when you pressed it buttons.  Whatever got her interested and fine motor building.

In the meantime, my friend Bodi told me about this band she was certain I’d like.  Some Canadian band out of Newfoundland called Great Big Sea.  “Check them out.” she said.  “You’ll like them.” she said.  “Start with this cd/dvd set.” she said.

Bodi is a wise friend who has never steered me wrong.  So I bought the cd/dvd set, their Great Big CD/DVD set, a live show recording.

I put the dvd into my desktop and pressed play.  A few minutes later, 3 year old Maura came climbing onto my lap.  She sat there with me until the end of the show.  I thought something of that, as Maura had the attention span of most 3 yr olds – fifteen nanoseconds.  But no, this caught her eye, and there she sat, clapping at the end of each song.

Yes, it was freaking adorable.

But there was more to come.  Because a couple days later, I plugged the cd into the car for a trip into Ann Arbor for groceries.  Maura seemed happy enough in her seat behind me.  But then, during one song – Excursion Around the Bay – something in the rear view mirror caught my eye.  The vision of Maura, raising her arms up during a section of the chorus, just like she had seen the audience do on the dvd two days before.

The girl was playing along with the song.

The girl who took f0r-e-ver to learn anything had picked up audience participation in one viewing.

I was a bit stunned.

But now it was completely obvious that music spoke to Maura.  At least, their music.  Luckily, the entire household actually agreed that Great Big Sea’s music was awesome, or else they might have gotten tired of it constantly playing.  See, if I needed to get something done, I’d put the DVD on tv and would know exactly where Maura was for 80 minutes or so.

Maura, age 3, entranced by folk singers from Newfoundland
Maura, age 3, entranced by folk singers from Newfoundland

When I found out they were coming to our state, I did something that some people might consider a questionable move – I got tickets for her and I to go see a band that sings about death and rum.  Well, unless you’re a fan of this group, then you understand – and those seated around us did.  I managed to get us front row seats, because she needed to be able to see, little almost 4 yr old that she was at the time.

Yes, it’s a bit mad, but you know, so was our life at the time.  We still had no answers, we were spending time with the geneticist and neurologist and getting no where.  We needed a night of fun.

And fun it was.

The people in the crowd were all welcoming of Maura – one family had a spare little flag of Newfoundland that they gave Maura (we still have it).  The woman down the row from us noticed Maura’s AFO’s (ankle-foot orthotics) peeking out from her shoes and asked if Maura had cerebral palsy – turns out the woman was an occupational therapist.  College girls who snuck up to the front danced with her, the lovely woman next to me helped hold her for a song to give me a break (for Maura decided the best view was from my hip.)

As for Maura, she was fascinated by it all, but I could tell where it was almost too much for her to process.  She either had her thumb in her mouth or was chewing on something the entire show.  She actually put a couple toothmarks in my favorite necklace – I’ve joked it’ll be hers someday.

I feared she looked like she wasn’t enjoying herself – except at the end of every song, she clapped wildly – and then instantly go back into serious mode as soon as they started playing again.  She particularly liked Bob, who was right in front of us. Bob had all the cool toys – violin, tin whistle, accordion – so was so very fascinating to Maura.  I watched her watch him, watch his fingers as he played the violin, and I could see how she was trying to figure it all out.

Bob won my heart that night when he came to the front of the stage and got down to play that fascinating violin to Maura.  Then Sean smiled at her and Alan at the end came over to give her a guitar pick (which yes, we still have too), which she clutched for the next hour.

It’s one thing to like a band.  It’s another thing to find out these guys had good hearts and a soft spot for little girls in pink glasses and her very own Great Big Sea t-shirt.

Yeah I got her a shirt!  Every groupie needs one.

Maura and me at her first concert, March 2007
Maura and me at her first GBS concert – March 2007

Eventually she learned how to sing along to these and other songs.  We have seen Great Big Sea two more times and everyone was just as awesome as ever.  At the last concert we went to, right at the start, Maura was doing her whole “processing” bit, where she looks concerned and slightly unhappy, and the one singer, Alan, kind of gave me that “She okay?” look.  I nodded and smiled, and he gave us a nod.  Of course, soon Maura was way too into it all, clapping and cheering and laughing at jokes she didn’t actually get.  And at the end, after two hours of trying to get their attention, Alan came down to the front with a guitar pick for her – and Maura got all shy.  So I helped her put her hand out, and she got another guitar pick (which yes, we have that one as well.)

I guess she is normal in that way – when actually confronted with her idols, she gets all shy.

She has expanded her musical taste.  She likes a good beat, something to dance to.  It’s funny to watch her dance, she’ll either have great rhythm or get all “interpretive dance style” on you, which is hilarious to watch.  She can probably sing along with too much Taylor Swift thanks to Miriam’s influence.  Sadly, we have so far missed this current tour of Great Big Sea’s, but I’m hoping that maybe they’ll put a date in somewhere near Seattle this autumn.  Then the girls and I could go.  Maybe get Maura a new t-shirt.

When Maura started kindergarten, she also started ballet.  Miriam had been taking ballet, and I asked the teacher if she thought it would be possible for Maura to join a class.  The teacher was very sweet and said “Of course!”  I was certain she was more optimistic than me.

I love being proved wrong.

Maura took to ballet beautifully.  She kept up to her best abilities, and loved every moment of it.  They started rehearsing for the recital and I was impressed with all Maura could do.

Of course, leave it to my girl to steal the show.

Her group were dressed as bunnies.  They had a student teacher on stage, “Mother Nature”, and they were each to skip out and stop, do a pose for Mother Nature, then skip off.  Maura was last.  Maura ran out, stopped in surprise at the sight of the audience, did an “oh wow!” kind of pose, ran up to Mother Nature, who then helped her off the stage.  Then her class all came on, did their thing – except Maura decided she didn’t like the “skip about in a circle” part, so went and sat down in the corner of the stage, waited for it to be over, got up, fluffed her tutu and got back into line.

I cried I was laughing so much.  She was absolutely brilliant!

For the next year, I heard “Oh wait!  Your daughter was that one bunny!  She was adorable!” all over town.

The most memorable bunny in town!
The most memorable bunny in town!


Needless to say, we signed her back up for ballet the next fall, where she proceeded to do very well.  And yet oddly, every so often, she’d run out of the room crying, instantly upset over something.  Her teacher was very concerned about it, and would come out to make sure Maura was okay and help her back in.  After the third time, we realized it was the music choice of the moment – Maura found some songs heartbreakingly sad.  Her teacher stopped using that particular piece of music.

It was just another clue as to the make up of Maura.  She didn’t just enjoy music, it was able to touch her in a way.  She was developing a very touchy empathy side, where she got sad if someone else was sad.  (Once, I was yelling at Miriam, for good reason, and Maura burst into tears next to her.  Oops.)

Again, at the recital, she outdid herself.  I remember standing backstage with another mom – a mom who had been in my shoes too – and the two of us stood there, a little teary at how great Maura was doing, touching her toe from floor to knee, just like the other girls.  And then, laughter when once again she rejected the idea of skipping around in a circle and instead, ran into the wings for a quick hug, then rejoined the others back on stage.

Once in a blue moon, I get a little wistful.  She could have been the child who was so talented at music or dancing, two loves of my heart.  But at the same time, she’s done more than I’d allow myself to hope, and she never ever minds it when I start blaring my music.  She’s now the only one who doesn’t mind me dancing around like a fool to kid show theme songs (got the “Victorious” theme dance down nearly perfect at this rate.)

Seeing as we’re going to be hanging around a lot together for the rest of our lives, her love of dancing and music is a perk.  As is her thinking my foolish antics are hysterical.

And the best thing?

She adores “Singing in the Rain” – one of my all-time favorite movies.  One night, she woke up at 3 am, and climbed into my bed.  I turned that movie on (it was on the dvr) in hopes that it would bore her to sleep.  Instead I woke up to her laughing hysterically during the actual “Singing in the Rain” sequence.  Now it’s something else we can both enjoy.

I think it may stretch to movie musicals, for Mim watched “The Wizard of Oz” one day, and for two days Maura was asking for “home”.  I finally figured it out  – “home” – “no place like home” – “The Wizard of Oz”!

These are the things that bring her pure joy, that make our lives better, that put a smile on a sad face.

Who could ask for anything more?