Sentimental, Snassy and Super-thankful!

Thursday evening Russ got a message.  It was from a woman sitting in the front row in the theatre at the Canadian College of Performing Arts. She was awaiting the start of “Love and Information” on its opening night. Meanwhile our girl Gina was backstage, ready and waiting for her cue to enter. The message sent was a picture of a foot nearing the stage and just two words, “front seat”.    At intermission we received an asssessment of the first half.   The woman is Tammy Shaw, she was raised in the same small town near here that Gina called home for the first 3 months of her life. Tammy lives in Victoria and has been generous and kind towards Gina, very mindful of the connections we share.   The connection is pretty solid.  When I pulled into Gainsborough, Saskatchewan on June 28th, 1999 as the brand new minister who had never met a soul out here, my assignment was to go to Tammy’s Mom’s insurance business, meet Cheryl-Anne and get the keys to my new home, the United Church manse.   Cheryl-Anne gave a wonderful warm welcome, I could not have imagined then that her daughter and my daughter would be sharing the moments they did this past weekend. 

This picture is part of the first scene that Gina was in, that is Gina on the left side.  It was a scene where she needed to make eye contact with an audience member.   It was Tammy who was in the right spot to be that person.  That really pleased Gina and she made sure to tell us about this. 

Photo Credit: Peter Pokorny

When the show was over Tammy and her daughter waited to talk with Gina and they presented her with flowers.   This impressed me so much, it was just so thoughtful. 

The thing is that Russell and I had planned to be in Victoria and to attend the show.  We thought we had a window where we could make it happen.  Covid and cold weather conspired against us.   I am beyond thrilled that on opening night Gina had fans in the crowd.  We made sure to be in touch with Tammy afterwards so that she could know how much her support meant to us.  Tammy relayed that she wasn’t doing a big thing, because for her it was a connection to home, and she needed that too.  So Tammy, this next picture is for you.  This is young Gina, on the back step at the manse in Gainsborough, taking in the summer sun from that particular corner of the world.  You know all about it.

The next night Gina had a triple whammy of support.  Her Aunt Janet and Uncle Ray were watching the livestream in Vancouver, we were watching the livestream with the Connelly’s, and in person in the theatre were Miles and Shelley Vass.  They are friends we worship with here in Carnduff and our connections of friend, family, and ranching go way back.  Shelley’s Dad Jack was the first person I told in the church community about dating Russell.  I remember saying to him, “Jack, I have something to tell you, (he was a member of the Ministry & Personnell Committee) I have been spending time with Russell Bayliss, it maybe doesn’t make sense but…..” he cut me off, “it makes perfect sense to me!”  I needed to hear that.  Jack was among my circle of support for the rest of his years. 

It was great to hear from Shelley after the show that they had loved it and were so glad they were there.   She reported back “we had a hug and a chat with your star!”  Oh that does a Mama good to think about her girl getting that warmth and adoration from home.   Shelley sent this picture of the program.

Saturday evening, closing night, my sister Margie and her family were watching from their home just outside of Saskatoon.  I know that Gina was encouraged by the simple knowledge that people are with her in this big journey she is on. 

My appreciation for the support that Gina received is the reason “super-thankful” appears in the title of this blog.   It really is the heart of this blog entry. I want to celebrate that the ties that connect us to each other are so life-giving. Especially in these times of increased isolation I feel like we should take note every time they show up and reveal to us the importance they really do carry.  The ties that connect us are maybe the binding that allows us to keep well amid very trying or new or discouraging or big developments. They are the ties that bind. They are the ties that keep us from becoming frayed. They are sometimes not obvious until they are. I am thankful, so thankful for them.

There are other words in the blog title……..sentimental being one of them.  Gina and I had a pretty big visit on the phone this weekend, I was puttering and talking, putting away Christmas decor (not the tree, Jill wants that up til April at least…..), but shelf ornaments were getting wrapped and boxed.  Long ago I started keeping some of the favorite clothes of the kids’ childhood to use as protective wrap for our special Christmas things.  As Gina and I reviewed the highs and lows of the show experiences I was pulling these very small and very memorable clothes from a box and getting the job done.  I broke into the conversation, “oh Gina, I just pulled your striped pants out, you know I have a memory of a picture of you wearing these pants and looking in that full length mirror that was in the hallway.  You were really checking yourself out, getting very aware of your own physicality.  I don’t think I could have imagined this moment now back then.”  It was a really poignant moment in the conversation for me.  As I handled those old pants, remembering the little girl who once wore them it felt like a celebration of growth and giftedness.  I couldn’t find that picture but I found this one.  These are the striped pants that will protect my favorite nativity figurine all year long.

As I looked for the striped pants picture I had in mind I came across a few other noteable ones.  When Gina was 2 we took her and baby Jill to see Sesame Street Live.  This picture represents her first encounter with a stage.  The shirt she is wearing here is one of our favorites from the olden days.  It has a story that goes with it, we call it her “troubles Daddy!” shirt.  Last week the cat wore it. 

These favorite clothes today.

Sometimes I enjoy puzzling over how things come to be.  I do that alot actually.  I was struck looking at pictures today, of how at a very young age Gina was surrounded by somewhat unusual action.  Here at the age of almost 4 months she finds herself in the midst of lunch on a horse chase.  I wonder what went through her head as Blaine peeked at her with that big horse looming so near.

These horses were milling in the ditch beside her. What leads a country girl to have strength and fearlessness on stage? Do moments like these contribute? I don’t know but its interesting to think about.

Pictures of livestock help to transition to the last word in the title of the blog……snassy. This also is a pivot from dwelling on Gina’s experiences and turns us to Morgan for a bit of humor. Morgan loves to use the word “sassy” and he pronounces it with zest. In itself it is not a funny word really, but the way Morgan brings it into use it just has a humorous tone to it, all the time. Well on Saturday we took advantage of mild temperatures and being home and we got a big job done. With the help of Laurie and Dawson we put our heifers and late calves through the chute and gave them a treatment to prevent parasites and skin bugs. It was an all afternoon job and held both monotony and rodeo type excitement at times. At one point I looked at Morgan and noted that it seemed he was wearing his good jeans. I hassled him about this. He assured me these looked like good jeans but in fact had very inconvenient “air conditioning” (a bad and not stylish hole). Then it was his turn to hassle me, he told me I was being snippy, I said, “yeah especially because it seems I am wearing my good jeans!” “Well Mom!” Morgan said, “you are being snippy and sassy!” And there and then in the midst of that monotonous work a new word was born, “snassy” and it gave us something to smile about then and since.

Morgan at his station, bringing the calves up the alleyway to get them to the chute for their treatments.

This was a long blog. If you got this far, thank you for your endurance. I just couldn’t leave any part out. I think for me being sentimental is one of the ways I nourish the ties that exist between me and the people and things of the past. I seem to need that. Expressing gratitude is how I nurture the ties that bind in the current moment. Its a big part of my faith. When people say thank you to me I notice it, I feel it, I know it has nourishing power. I try to offer it back as much as possible. I could do better with that though. And how could I leave out snassy? If we didn’t get to celebrate humor I am not sure we could carry on around here.

Super thankful, sentimental and snassy……..thats me.

P.S. The new characters on the blog tonight gave their permission to me to use their names here.

Not a Dance Mom

On this Mother’s Day weekend things are unusual.  Gina is away at school, Jill is in quarantine and its my first Mother’s Day without my Mom.  I don’t have my girls.  At this point, I am doing okay.  In the space this opens up I have a chance to ponder and share some stuff about Gina.  She is the human who made me into a mother.  She is currently spending hours and hours every day dancing, learning the craft of acting and developing her singing talents.  She is having a great experience at the Canadian College of Performing Arts.  

What you may or may not know about Gina, is that she never had a single dance lesson until she was in grade 9.  The summer before grade 9 she started talking about wanting to study dance.  We wanted to support her interest but wondered how you start such a disciplined area of learning at that late age.   She would never fit in with her peers.  We found our way to a half hour weekly class in Estevan at Drewitz School of Dance, there she studied Musical Theatre.  I can pretty vividly remember the day we went to registration, I felt completely and totally disoriented and maybe a little foolish, who did we think we were coming there green to all things dance?!?  We were very kindly received by the owner of the school and Gina was encouraged, it felt good.  I also remember holding my breath that day as our payment card was processed for the purchase of shoes Gina needed.  We were never very flush with cash, but back to school time was the worst.  This really was a big deal to commit to.   The card went through.  And we were off…….

Gina loved it.  By the end of the year she had earned an award for most improved dancer in her class of 30, she was part of the grandest recital I had ever seen, it took my breath away and she wanted more.  That is almost exactly when Oxbow Dance opened its doors, a school much closer to home, this was a blessing that likely changed the course of Gina’s life.  In a fledgling school she had access to much one on one teaching, she thrived, she grew, and she fell more and more in love with dance as she spent hours in training every week.  Fast forward to post secondary education decisions………there was no decision to be made, she knew what she wanted.   She took charge of every single aspect of researching and applying to various schools where she could study musical theatre.   She was accepted at the school which was her first choice and made the move this past September.  She is now half way through the two year program and is loving it.  It is unbelievably hard work, she is always tired, she is learning such interesting and valuable things.

More than once over the last year Gina has asked me, “Mom, how could you have missed it?”  She is not accusing me of anything, it is more of a curious question.  As her Mom, how could I have not seen that performer inside of her?  It’s a good question.  I am not sure of the whole answer but I know these two things.  I was limited by my ideas of what is normal.  This part of my answer is kind of sad.  I am a big woman, I know nothing about doing hair and make up, and I don’t really care about it.  “People like me don’t belong in the world of dance” is part of what rolled around in my head.  It never crossed my mind to encourage any of my kids to pursue dance.  Yet, now Jill too is finding her most joy in dance.   My own sense of limits shaped the options I considered for my kids.   The other part of my answer is what I am proud of.  We have always listened to our kids, we have tried to honor how it felt to be them, we have tried to stretch them but also create safety for them, an interesting tension.  I think the best thing is that as we listened to them we taught them to listen to themselves.  Gina was doing lots of sifting and sorting in grade 8.  She was doing well in cadets at that time, but it seemed that she just got honest with herself and said something like this, “I need to be more free to be expressive.”  How would a grade 8 student put that?  Definitely not those words but that same idea.  This is the point where for no apparent reason she choreographed and performed for us a number based on music from the musical “CHICAGO”.   Then she asked for those first dance lessons.  

So here I sit, my first born is a long way away, she is finishing up classes and practicing for the year end musical offered in a few weeks.  In hours this week when I was weary and nostalgic I spent time looking at photos and videos.  There were some where indeed, you might say, “Kathy, how could you have missed that?”  I and we just did.  But Gina didn’t, and that is what makes all the difference.  So as her proud and nostalgic Mama I invite you to share in the moments that might have added up to me getting it, but they didn’t!!

To my untrained eye this looks like pretty good form.
Gina was six and a very big fan of the musical “Hairspray.” Just how many times did we watch it?
The desk was a desk but it was also a stage, was that a clue?
She had some good dance instincts at age 8.
Age 8, why talk when you can sing?
Age 7, the hay bales make a great stage too.
Age 11, posing for pictures in a very graceful way.
Almost 15, Gina’s official photo for Drewitz Dance School, the Musical Theatre class performed “Singing in the Rain,”
Four years later at her first show at CCPA, Gina opened the show coming on stage dancing to “Singing in the Rain”, that feels like a full circle! 
The song was part of a medley, here she meets a chimney sweep and the number merged into Mary Poppins.
The medley continues and now its become a song from Hamilton the Musical. It was a number probing how tap dance might be more fully utilized in modern musical theatre. It was choreographed by a fellow student, Josie Schmalz and it was called “I’d Tap That.”
Love that red hair flying!
I wish this photo wasn’t blurry, but you get the passion and life in those eyes peeking above her mask!
A funny moment lately…..I was talking to Gina on the phone, she said, “I gotta study for my sword fighting final”…..I was thinking, “Gina those are words that I never ever imagined would come from my kids’ mouth!!!” Gina sent me this picture, its travelled too many internet highways to be clear but it gives a sense of this.
Gina was selected to be one of two students in a stage combat mentorship. She was surprised by how much she loved the work of merging combat and dance. It left her wanting more.
Looking to the future Gina feels stage combat will be part of the picture.
Back to 2003…….my first Mothers Day, Gina and I have had a lot of fun over the years!

Some further credits: The pictures of the show from Gina’s school were taken by Andrew Barrett, a designated photographer. Gina is on stage with Mackenzie Langdon, Dustyn Forbes, and Jaren Guerreiro at the Canadian College of Performing Arts. The event was called “The TD Festival of New Works”.