Remember how you used to go to kids’ recitals?
Your family would send an advance group – a couple of cousins, maybe – to get there real early and sit up front and scatter stuff (a coat, a hat, a scarf, an umbrella, whatever) across all the adjacent seats in front to reserve them for when your daddy showed up with the camera; and your grandma and aunts, with cold drinks and maybe a couple muffulettas.
And the best seat was for your mama, who would rush straight from backstage, after she had put the final touches on the recital child.
Mamas have done that since the invention of tap shoes.
And now, just like that, everything’s changed.
Last March, after every recital song had been plunked or tooted or sung several hundred times and driven the neighbors crazy, and every dance routine had been danced to exhaustion, and every last sequin was hot-glued onto costume satin, COVID hit.
And, face it, most of the audience were grandmas like me and my mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, still mad about being told that now, after they raised their kids and worked two jobs and finally made it to their golden years, they should sacrifice their lives to the economy.
They weren’t risking their lives at no recitals; they were staying home and watching the Hallmark Channel. And without them, the audience would be pretty sparse.
So now we got Zoom recitals.
What happens at Zoom recitals is, the kids appear in different squares, just like a regular Zoom meeting, and so do the audience members. (After a few recitals, the audience grandmas figured out how to turn off our video, so our square shows a blank, and we can sit there and not even wear our bra.)
The teacher appears in one of the top squares, looking flustered and asks everybody to stifle theirselves by pressing the “mute mic” button on the computer, so we can’t be heard burping or laughing or nothing while one of the children is performing. When each child finishes, instead of clapping, we silently press little hand-clapping emojis that show up on the screen.
The kids perform, either right in their living room with their parents sitting there on the couch, or if they got their own computers or smartphone, they can perform in their own room, with their parents in the next room watching on Zoom, just like everybody else.
So far this month the Gunches have watched my granddaughter Lollipop’s piano recital, my grandson Go-Cup’s guitar recital and my sister-in-law Larva’s kids’ violin and accordion recitals. We texted back and forth while the people’s kids were playing and said that our kid was best, which we couldn’t do in real life because we might be sitting in front of that other kid’s grandma.
Last week my sister-in-law Gloriosa’s little girl, Momus, had her tap-dance recital in her bedroom. Gloriosa had propped the laptop up on a bookshelf, tilted down a little so everybody can see Momus’s footwork.
All the Gunches watch from our own houses, and Gloriosa and her husband Proteus and son Comus watch in their TV room, with their other laptop hooked up to the big TV.
Nobody notices when two-year-old, Flambeau, climbs off Gloriosa’s lap and trots off to Momus’s room. First thing anybody knows, she is on-screen, dancing behind Momus like a tap-dancing shadow in diapers. Proteus gets on his hands and knees and crawled into the bedroom (why do people think if they get down low a camera can’t see them) and reaches for Flambeau, but she skitters away.
Momus just keeps on dancing.
Next we see Gloriosa, waddling in a duck squat. She lunges for Flambeau and misses.
Momus just keeps on dancing.
Finally, Momus’s brother Comus stomps in, not even trying to hide, picks Flambeau, and hauls her out.
Just in time. Momus goes into her grand finale, TAPPITY-tappity, slide and bow. We press our clapping hand emojis over and over, and so does everybody else watching. The screen is a sea of clapping hands. She gets a virtual ovation.
It’s the new way.