Luke, my 5 year old honey badger, was 3 when the world shut down. Now, I am not going to lie and say that we did so many things as a family before COVID took over. The truth is, my husband and I are introverts, lead very busy lives, and are tired 100% of the time. So, the thought of piling our insanely energetic family into the car and going out in public is enough to keep us inside. Of course, we do the park and children’s museums but that is about the extent of it. Luke has never been to the movies, doesn’t go with me to the grocery store, and calls Target the “Gift Shop” because he only goes there when we have to buy a present for someone’s birthday and I want him to help me pick it out.
That’s why, when The Lion King came to our hometown, I knew it was time. First, let me promise you that the Lion King is Luke’s favorite movie. We watch the Lion Guard on Disney+ (seasons 1-3) at least once a week and he has a stuffed lion that he sleeps with at night. This was it. This was the time.
We spent the weekend before the play watching YouTube videos of the performance so he could be prepared for the puppets and the sounds. We went over all of the rules about not talking during the play and trying to keep our bodies still for 2 and a half hours. We made sure his belly was full and I snuck water in just in case he got thirsty. I even bought him a baby Simba stuffed animal at the tune of $42 so he could have something to hold onto when the lights went dark. We were ready.
What I wasn’t ready for was the sparkle in his eyes and the amazement that took over once those animals started coming down the aisles. I have an amazing friend who works for one of the sponsors of the theater. She was able to help me get incredible orchestra level seats, just a few rows back from the stage, on the aisle. Luke was close to coming out of his skin he was so excited.
He leaned over to me after about an hour and whispered, “Mommy, I am loving this!” and I melted. He pointed at the actors, clapped after every song, and, despite the conversations about calming our bodies, he wiggled and squirmed with excitement the entire play. I also had to keep asking him to stop lifting his stuffed Simba into the air and whisper-yelling “It is time!”
During the intermission, he was “starving” so we fought the crowds out to the concession to buy a cookie. Of course, because it is Luke, he fell on the way out of our seats and banged his head on the railing. He was fine but we had to talk about being careful even if we are excited. We made our way through all the very long lines, waited behind people that just couldn’t figure out what they wanted, and the announcement came on that we had to get back to our seats or they were going to lock us out for the first bit of the 2nd act. We grabbed our cookies and ran back to our seats, trying not to fall again. We made it.
About 10 minutes into the 2nd act, he leans over again, puts his hand on my hand and says, “Mommy, I think these are real people.” I almost cried it was so sweet. The whole way home he was beaming and we had to go home and turn on Lion Guard before he fell asleep. He was still talking about it this morning on his way to school. I am so glad we did this. It was exhausting but it is a memory I needed and I am glad Luke has it too.