I spent a few days earlier this week visiting dear Chicagoland friends. We had the week off in between Pirates of Penzance performances, and there was a newborn baby to see. Friends are a strong lure, but a baby, well, she has pull. After a couple of days with the new parents and child, I can honestly say that no one turns heads like a stretching, yawning, sleeping 8-pound girl.
It’s true that I observed heads turning all the time in Italy last month. Italian men don’t apologize for turning and looking, much to the delight of the married-with-children women on our choir trip, but it’s not like that here in the States (except in locales that I don’t frequent.)
And yes, heads turn with (mostly) great precision on UAO’s set of Pirates. Even if a chorus member turns his head at the wrong time, he must do so with conviction. A crisp head-turn on the wrong beat is better than a slow and sloppy one at the right time. There’s not time for apologies.
The only time I see heads boldly turn stateside, and not involving jazz squares, is when there’s a newborn involved. I saw it on the L, in a busy restaurant downtown, at a coffee shop in Oak Park, on a bench by the Chicago river. No apology necessary for staring and smiling at a baby girl who’s been kicking outside the womb for a mere 6 weeks.
Occasionally when I’m away midweek, I feel like I need to have an excuse for why I’m not at home and working. Everyone else is, so shouldn’t I? Never mind that I am working all weekend and that I miss important events during the year because I have nighttime rehearsals, Christmas Eve services, and non-negotiable performance dates. Yet, thanks in part to all of the hardworking professionals around me, I feel like I should be at home and working.
This week, however, that little baby taught me to let go of the apologies, turn my head with conviction, and enjoy the free time on a Monday and Tuesday that lets me stop and stare and smile.