Put Yourself in Their Place

By Erika Hoffman

Put Yourself in Their Place

In 2007, my husband and I visited Ireland. Of all the marvelous experiences encountered there, including the must-see Cliffs of Moher, a boat ride to the islet where St. Patrick was banished and the harpists and singers at Bunratty Castle, I was most moved listening to “Danny Boy” in the cellar of Ashford Castle, along with other Irish tunes. We partook of all things Irish, even the harrowing thrill of driving on the left side on narrow two lane roads where you find yourself between a rock wall on the left and a Mack truck barreling down on the right.

Despite our wonderful trip, I left with one regret. I never saw Irish dancers – no Riverdance Show!

So, I found myself at Myrtle Beach, accompanying my hubby to a conference recently, and he said he was free Friday night, and he’d do whatever I wanted. I eyed the kiosk of enchanting brochures in the lobby, plucked out the green one of comely gals in emerald tunics, posed mid-step. “This!” I pointed to the dancers.

“The Spirit of Ireland?” he read, turning the flier in his hand.

“Celtic dances and Irish tenors.”

The concierge at the Sheraton made the reservations, and we arrived at the Palace Theatre at Broadway at the Beach right behind a large tour bus. An assemblage of white heads and wheelchair bound queued up in front of our eyes. Our seats were in the last row of the King’s Suite Showroom, a smallish auditorium. In back of us parked the wheelchairs and their occupants.

As the curtains opened, out strutted the galloping, prancing, rhythmically-blessed, ultra-slim lasses in sparkly, short “A-flared” dresses. Mesmerizing! It reminded me of North Carolina mountain clogging only faster and more joyful! So much racket, like in a marching band! Their stomping drowned out all other sounds.

Next, two male crooners, in green ties and Irish-looking garb, appeared on stage. They belted out a spirited “Molly Malone.” Yet, despite the gusty volume of their voices, I kept hearing snatches of a low drone. When they finished their rendition and engaged in bit of banter, I heard irksome humming from behind and to the right across the aisle. The area was dark. I’d need to pivot around completely and crane my neck to discern the source of the bothersome noise.

More world champion dancing resumed and a routine where their gloved hands played an intricate variation of patty cake. The girls even did prone push-ups where their feet tapped out beats on the floor as their arms held up their horizontal bodies. Amazing athleticism! It reminded me of cheerleading with some of their yells. Their commotion kept the strange chorus of sounds behind me unnoticed.

During the one tenor’s song, “Maggie,” however, the moan-along participant became very vocal. It interfered with my enjoyment of the song. It annoyed me. These miscellaneous animal grunts spoiled the music. I twisted around, and so did others to figure out the identity of the obnoxious spectator. When the tune was over, the other tenor materialized, and the two announced they had some congratulatory call-outs to make. The tenors wanted to well-wish a couple on a wedding anniversary and, in addition, extend birthday greetings to this same man who had married on his birthday. A two-for-one day! They gestured to an older couple in the back to my right who radiated happiness in their beaming faces. In between them sat their grown daughter who slapped her cheeks in glee, the way the Three Stooges used to do on TV.

“Down Syndrome,” whispered my husband to me.

When the tenors sang “Music of the Night,” the girl responded with grunts. When they belted out “Danny Boy,” she hummed hoarsely. When the dancers pounded the floors animatedly, she rocked and moaned, hit herself violently and gurgled.

At first I felt peeved and questioned the judgment of the couple: Weren’t they aware that others had paid good money to enjoy a musical performance, and their daughter’s intrusive expressiveness and off beat cries jeopardized the show? I wondered as a mom myself if I’d act the same given that set of circumstances.

Then, I witnessed how the musicians carried on unfazed. I watched the audience in front of me join in the sing-along seemingly unaware of the “help” from the peanut gallery. I noted the tingly excitement of the room. At intermission, I glanced at the parents’ faces to see if they appeared chagrinned and sheepish. Pure joy radiated from them! They were having a blast! They were celebrating their milestone wedding anniversary and had the offspring of their union nestled between them, celebrating as well.

During the second half, I listened for her blurting during pauses in the songs, but no longer was I bothered. In a strange way, her joining in the melodies comforted me. Her taking part in life, in entertainment, among a group of strangers, an audience, at a Mecca for fun – Myrtle Beach – made me appreciate the goodness of people and the wonderfulness of life.

Instead of feeling annoyed at her folks bringing her, I admired them. They had it right! They enjoyed her there with them. It was not a chore to them. It was their pleasure.

The last number, “I Believe,” beautifully executed by the rich tenors, moved me. The girl in the back howled along. Previously, in my opinion, her contribution detracted from the show, but now, with my change of heart and open eyes, her donation enhanced the meaning of the song and tripled my enjoyment of it. I liked hearing it sung by, and appreciated by, the woman-child in the back row, bookended by those souls who sired her, wanted her and enjoyed her living presence. She enriched the show, imparted a needed message to me and made me feel aglow from having witnessed the strength, the wonderfulness and the caring bonds of a strong marriage and a commitment to family

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman Erika Hoffman views most travel experiences as educational experiences and sometimes the lessons learned are revelations about oneself.

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