It's a perogative of a 6-year-old to change his mind at a moment's notice and a parent's right to redirect her child by any means possible back to original plans. The new year began with a battle of wills with my willful young son Theo -- actually it was my wife, Pat, who was directly involved in the emotional tug of war.
The dress rehearsal for the Christ Church Cathedral's Annual Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival, an elaborate Christmas pageant, was about to get underway, and Pat and Theo had decided months earlier to join the cast. We are all Christ Cathedral members, although few parishioners would recognize me since I attend services an average of four times a year. (In my spiritual defense, I write columns like this one on Sunday mornings while Pat and Theo are at church.)
The reason for Theo's last-minute change of plans was that he had decided the leggings on his elf-like Yule Page costume were too girly. It didn't matter that all the men in the elaborate pageant wore girly stockings -- even the macho, ax-carrying Beefeaters -- or that most men back in 14th-century England, the time of the first Boar's Head festival, frequently wore similar stockings.
Theo's mind was made up, and it was up to Pat to threaten the complete elimination of TV watching and computer game play in order to persuade him on the importance of sticking to one's word.
For this good cop/bad cop parenting game, I assumed my natural role as the impartial United Nations-like observer and watched the disciplining unfold.
Our life lesson argument to Theo was this: One less Yule Page would create chaos throughout the entire Boar's Head procession. Good King Wenceslas, all Three Kings and others were counting on his participation. Basically, if he didn't go -- stockings, makeup and all -- he would start 2005 in big trouble.
Theo finally headed off with Pat (a Lady's Attendant) for the shows, while I celebrated Jan. 1 with blissful quiet and a trip to a nearby coffeehouse. While we might never know the exact reasons for his turnaround -- my money is on the loss of TV -- what's important is that he came to love his Boar's Head playacting.
I could spend this inaugural 2005 arts column discussing my recent trip to the newly re-opened Museum of Modern Art in New York City, architect Yoshio Taniguchi's expansive, serene galleries in its new addition and why its $20 general admission ticket is a better value than free art museums with little worth seeing. (Perhaps that's a subject for an upcoming column.) If I wanted to start the year on a solemn note, I could express my views on the changes to the city of Cincinnati's competitive arts grant programs in response to recent budget cutbacks and its impact on the cultural community. (But I'll take a break from negativity.)
Instead, I'd like to focus on something as simple and joyful as a new holiday tradition and my discovery of a wonderful local event I'd heard of but never before experienced. Boar's Head festivals have been held at Christ Church Cathedral since 1940, a tradition shared with many other Episcopal churches and organizations.
I've been a Christ Church parishioner since 1994 -- Pat and I were married in its chapel -- but I'd never watched a Boar's Head Festival until this year. I knew about its 100-plus cast, full orchestra and expansive choir, heard about the real plum pudding and huge mince pie, the authentic shepherds' robes and headdresses and the live hawk, yet never personally caught a show until now.
It took a willful son reconsidering his girly costume and joining the production to finally get me to the show (the one on Jan. 1).
For the time being, Theo says he'll definitely be back in the cast, and I think he enjoyed himself too much to protest his costume again. And I know I'll be back in the standing room crowd watching.
One can never have enough family traditions, especially at the start of a new year.