We spread out our blanket and our dinner, a picnic hastily harvested from the garden and the farmer’s market. We were facing west, but the sun had just dipped below the mountain at the end of the field, and a soft pink glow bathed the simple, temporary stage on the lawn before us.
It was a perfect swishing, summer night, for a quiet visit with friends before the play began, but the excitement of an evening out had already infected Thing2, our five-year-old, and threatened to spread to Thing1. We had danced/dragged him from the car to the lawn by the old church, and he was still dancing and singing as we started popping open tupperware. I gently reprimanded him only to be met with more singing. Daddy reprimanded him more forcefully, but even his baritone couldn’t dampen the sing-song cheerfulness.
The chirping diminished only slightly when we pointed out the food, and we noted with relief that a few other children were responding to the atmosphere. Still, I began to worry that one of us would be taking Thing2 home early – even outdoor theatre needs quiet to be enjoyed – but before I could execute a retreat with him, the Master of Ceremony trod out to the center of the amphitheater that had been formed by the gathered families and friends.
In a strong, deep voice he introduced the play and its history. Then he exhorted the assembled audience to put away their video cameras and cell phones and to unplug ourselves for the moment.
Thing2 instantly interpreted this last entreaty in his own way, and unplugged himself from the seemingly-cosmic source of energy that had buoyed his antics until this very moment. He grabbed his drink and a piece of tomato and wiggled onto my lap, wrapping my jacket and arms around him. The command seemed to have the same effect on the other small children, and, as the darkness grew and the play began they too snuggled into the closest parent.
We heard a few beeps of phones being powered-down, and then the hum of chatter ceased. The only sound was the rustle of the trees as a few gentle gusts of wind swirled through the valley to the mountain.
And, once they were satisfied that we had truly unplugged ourselves from our gadgets and our busy lives, the company of players sounded a soft drum beat to herald the play and, with it, utter peace.