Family Arts Saturday, by Jono Waldman
Today, I was Old MacDonald. Armed with only a ukulele and a cheesey southern drawl, I took an entire zoo worth of animals on an adventure. There was a talkative lion, a pensive girraffe, a pair of shy pigs, a frog that was full of feck. There were cows and horses and tigers and bears and so many other kinds of animals. We sang together and they all took turns singing their own special animal noises. When the song was done, we travelled around the hills, under a mountain, through a forest, and over a river. After the animals dried off from their swim, we all lay down on the shores of the bay. There we sang again, making up rhymes and laughing. When the song was over, all the animals sang a lullabye with me and they fell asleep under a canopy of stars. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty great Saturday morning.
Family Arts Saturdays occupy a world halfway between classroom and clubhouse; part reality and part fantasy. Like in a classroom, there's sitting in circles and raising hands, there are grownups and rules. But there is also a spark of magic and mystery. On my first Family Arts Saturday, I appeared in role as Old MacDonald. Sobha had brought a bag full of animal masks and after the children put them on, they practiced moving around the space as their animals. While Rob was leading them around the room, he suddenly got a phone call from his friend Old MacDonald, who - coincidentally - was looking to do some singing with some animal friends. I entered. I could see a mix of skepticism and excitement in the kids' eyes, trying to figure out if I was, in fact, the same Old MacDonald they'd been singing about for so many years.
After we sang my song, we took our long journey to the bay. Sobha had also brought a long piece of fabric which featured prominently as the mountain we went under, the stream we swam acoss, the bay we lay down next to, and even the night sky over our heads. We sang Down by the Bay and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. As we traveled from place to place, I watched the children constructing the environment around them, imagining each location. I saw them devising entire worlds.
After the lesson, I put down the ukulele and dropped the southern drawl. I was myself again. Still, a month later, when I bumped into one of those same kids on Family Arts day, she came right up to me, took a long, slow, sidelong glance at my face, and said finally, "I know you! You're Old MacDonald!"