Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Connecticut Library's in Queen Livie's Court

The original title of this post was supposed to be Grand Central Station because life just seems so busy. The culmination of that week's madness was our journey on the Friday before last. It's been several weeks since then and the roller coaster effect has somewhat worn off, but the memory lingers.
To start back even further, several months ago we received word that something Livie did for her art class was chosen for some kind of international kids' art exhibit. "Great, we said, what does it look like?" we asked. "Sorry, but it went on tour to Washington D.C.. Humina humina wha? MY little girl's artwork is hanging somewhere in DC? No friggin' way! This is going to be one of those buy-the-picture-book-for-$100, right? I mean, she's non verbal and she really doesn't like to draw. We'll just let it slide and maybe we'll shell out the cash.

Fast forward another month or so and I get a call from the principal. "Bill, they're going to have an exhibit of the works in Connecticut, and we have an invite for the artist and her family, would you like to go?" Another Ralph Kramden disbelief noise came out of my mouth, but my wife and I agreed to go.

Another flash forward to a few weeks before the show. "Bill?" Linda calls from the other room
"I gotta make that call to confirm that we are going, and we can get pretty much as many tickets as we want, Aly and Jason want to go. Whatdya think?"
"Three kids in a minivan, all the way to CT, whatdya think I think?"
"I'll get tickets for them too." she says...more than 20 years married, you'd think she'd get my meaning from my tone of voice by now.

One more time tick to the week of the show. Linda is flat on her back with some virus. "If this last until tomorrow, I definitely won't be able to go." "Come on," I pleaded "the vomiting isn't that bad, you don't HAVE to sit up in the car." I really didn't want her to miss this show, it had NOTHING to do with the abject fear of being stuck in the minivan with three kids for more than 3 hours.

The day arrives, the morning leaves no doubt that I am on my own on this journey. Alright, lemonade it is, make mine a double, make the best of it. Google map clocked it at 1 hour 50 minutes, pre party starts at 5:30, presentations begin at 6:30. We'll leave at 3:30, have 10 minutes for some minor traffic, heck, worst case scenario and we hit an hour's worth of backups, we'll get there 10 minutes before the ceremony.

First hour on the road goes off without a hitch, we hit the approach to the bridge (for those who know the NY/NJ tri-state area, you are already hearing the ominous music)...traffic stops. The sign up ahead flashes (delays: 35 minutes across GWB upper level). Shoot, I forgot the sugar in the lemonade. Aah well, we're still 45 ahead of schedule for the ceremony, what more could go wrong? (Again, you tri-state area folks are closing your eyes and shaking your heads) What could go wrong...on the George Washington Bridge? To the Cross Bronx Expressway? To Route 95? On a Friday afternoon?

Anybody who has had the pleasure of being on the Cross Bronx can appreciate this next one. My daughter is starting to complain. "Can we get off and find a bathroom?" Aly asks somewhat urgently. " "Aly, look around...this is the land of ONCE ..." pointing to the free advertising written in spray paint on the underpass. "we are NOT getting off on any exit around HERE." 20 minutes later, the urgency has turned to pleading. "PLEEEZE dad? I really have to go!" We're just getting on the 95 turnoff around the Throgs Neck (or was it the Whitestone) Bridge. "Dadddd, pull OVER, I'll pee on the side of the road, I DON'T CARE!" Next exit, I get off and do my best French Connection imitation through the residential section of Pelham Bay. We finally fin a corner with a pizza place; I park next to a fire hydrant and send her in. A minute late, she's back "PAYING CUSTOMERS ONLY..." I have just 2 bucks in my wallet and I throw them at her, Jason goes in with her. 3 minutes later, they come running out. "Dad, take off!" she says somewhat panicked. Already in my Popeye Doyle mode, I execute a wild U turn and head back toward the highway. "DaAAD! the cheapest thing in there was like 2.50! We said we would by something when we got out...we took off after I got out of the bathroom!"

Back on 95...traffic finally begins to break up a little. Maybe, just maybe, we can make it by 6:30. WELCOME TO CONNECTICUT ...ENJOY THE...backup. 8 miles away from the exit; 10 minutes to the library after that...time 6:15. No way we're going to be on time. 6:35...we hit the exit and I switch to my innate sense of direction (no, really...I DO have an innate sense of direction, I did NOT get lost).

We arrive in the parking spot at 6:47; into the library at 6:49. Aly takes Liv to the bathroom, it was a certified MIRACLE that Livie didn't have an accident. I scope the presentation ceremony. About 75 people and a crowd of kids and parents near the front where they are giving out the awards. Kids artwork everywhere, i am not finding Livie's art anywhere, not that i even know what I'm looking for. 6:52, they are out of the bathroom and I push to the front of the crowd. I had just heard the guy with the mike ask "Was there anyone else?" Luckily, another boy had stepped forward and the man was asking him questions while kindly critiquing the piece. I positioned myself in the front and Livie began getting just a slight bit antsy, she brushes some woman who is sitting near the floor and I get a slightly dirty look. Lady, if you knew what I'd just been through and you value won't say a WORD. "Okay, is there anyone else?" the emcee calls out. We step forward and I give them her name and the school name and they pull it up on the screen. "Oh yes, I remember this one,it's the stained glass-type piece..." I blurr a little after this, I remember answering a question and tell the MC after the description that she is non-verbal and 6 and autistic.

We were the last one presented, we MADE IT! I asked them if there was a certificate or something. "You should have gotten one through the school. You can buy a copy for 40$. But this one probably won't translate as well onto the reproduction." After all this, you're damned RIGHT I'm buying a copy!

The theme of the exhibit was "A view from my window" or something like that The idea was to show something that was important to you. Some showed culture, some holiday scenes, family. Livie's art was called "Koosh Ball" and was a stained glass-looking 3-D piece with colored paper inside the 'window'. Now that we 'saw' it on the screen during the presentation, we knew what to look for. We scoured through the dozens of paintings until finally we found it next to the 'title' of the exhibit.

As we stood there admiring it, I got a tap on my shoulder. it was a person from the group who had sponsored our school, VSAarts. They said it really looked best with back lighting, when the light would shine through the colors. It really WAS a beautiful and impressive piece. I was really touched with VSAarts work with the disabled, and proud of my daughter, and I think it showed, because it reflected in their eyes. I thanked them profusely and Me, Livie, Aly and Jason wandered around the show, admiring the other work and hanging out to decompress and eat some of the spread that was left. At 7:25 we left 5 minutes before the exhibit closed for the night. A little over 1/2 hour spent, but we got a month's worth of joy out of the experience. We packed back into the car and drove back to the highway and hit the rest stop on 95 to get some dinner. We had a great time eating MickeyD's and goofing on their play area (or lack thereof). Back on 95 and Aly had fun taking pictures of everyone. The Cross Bronx backed up again near the bridge. We finally got home again just before 10 PM.

the final tally:
Total hours on the road: 5 hours 15 minutes
Total time at the exhibit: 32 minutes
Total dollars spent: 28 dollars, including ice cream, chachkies from the rest stop in CT and the 2 dollars from the pizza place which Aly kept.
Total Joy: Priceless

(glad I finally got that one out)

No comments: