At long last: date night!

I love theater. Plays, musicals, dance performances, orchestral music - I love it all. Hubby was very good in our dating days about taking me to lots of performances. He even took me to The Nutcracker (once we were married though he said, "Never again!").

When I dreamed of having children, of course I thought I would have girls who would eventually take their father's place and go to the ballet and musicals with me.

Well, we all know how that turned out - five boys. So now it's soccer games and basketball games and baseball and sports galore. Hubby and I have taken the boys to see plays put on by The Rose, our local children's theater, and to the symphony when they had The "Symphony Spooktakular" during Halloween. The boys said they liked those things, but I could tell by their squirmy bottoms and their glazed over eyes that they weren't totally feeling it.

When Joey was alive, he loved all of it. He enjoyed going to plays, he loved dancing, and he loved what he called "pretty music," or orchestral music. I knew he would be my go-to guy for shows and plays.

But we all know how that turned out, too. Every time the children's theater has a new show, I think about how much Joey would have loved it, and that he and I would be going on a little date together. I ask the other boys, but they don't want to go. I look longingly at the girl moms who bring their daughters to the shows, all dressed up in their best dresses. It makes me sad. I feel like it's a missed opportunity.

Before Christmas, a traveling show called "Shen Yun" was being heavily advertised on television. It is the story of 1,000 years of Chinese history told through dance and music. I thought it looked beautiful, but also something that no one would want to see with me.

Until Slim walked in the living room one day when the commercial was on. "Wow," he said, "that looks really cool." And then he walked out. Every time he saw the commercial he stopped and watched it.

Of course, I thought to myself, I could take Slim. He would love it! As a child with high-functioning autism, he gets fixated on particular topics; and for a long time his obsession was with China. His birthday was at the end of December; and I wanted to do something special with him, so I bought us tickets to the show.

It was kind of a crap shoot, honestly. What would he think? Would he open the tickets and just throw them aside unenthusiastically? Would he not want to go? (Luckily Hubby said he would go with me if Slim didn't want to.) And most importantly, would he fall asleep during the 7:30 pm school night performance?

His birthday came. When he opened the tickets, he shouted, "Wha-hooo!!" Phew, he was really excited. I still wasn't sure if it was more about doing something with just Mom and not the brothers, or the actual show itself.

The night of the show came, and I have to admit, I was both excited and dreading it. I had gone back to work teaching that day, and Lil' C had an appointment right after school so there was no time to go home and change or rest. But Slim and I went out to dinner at P.F. Changs (one of his favorite "fancy" restaurants), and headed to the show.

Slim's excitement was palpable. He was even engaging the (cute) young woman next to us in a conversation about Chinese history. Once the show started, we were both riveted. The music was beautiful, the costumes were stunning, and the artistry was amazing.

I thought Slim would be asleep on my shoulder during the second act, but quite the opposite was true: I was the one falling asleep! He was on the edge of his seat the entire time. I was worried he would talk out loudly during the performance, which he has the tendency to do especially during movies. But he didn't. He was the perfect quiet, engaged audience member.

The next night at dinner, we told the brothers and Hubby all about it. I think I detected a tinge of jealousy. I'm now being bombarded with requests to have a "date night" with everyone else.

Contrary to what I had long imagined, I don't have Joey to be my theater date. But, I'm learning that if I open my mind and try to find common interests with my other sons, I will have no shortage of lovely date nights in my future.

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