Ava aglow in her Lenore getup.

Ava aglow in her Lenore getup.

Full transparency: The kids are off at lessons of one sort or another under the exhaustive care of their dear father and there exists, right now, an opportunity to remedy one or many of the exactly three thousand eight hundred and twenty four things around the house that are demanding immediate attention (including a screaming pile of unfolded laundry, dishes of leftover food that are hastily unleashing a plague of filth over kitchen counters and sinks, and a dozen red-flagged house-crippling maintenance issues).

However, in the face of the end of my creative function altogether, I have made a conscious decision to sit down. With a coffee. And write.

So, I figure I’m going to house-cleaning and responsible-parent hell at the expense of a moderate amount of satisfaction for the soul. So be it. It’s happening.

My husband of old was the first to poo poo the arts. Science! Engineering! Fact! Blah blah blah. I will never forget the stunned look on my father-in-law’s face, when, as a 19-year-old girl, I told him I was going to the University of Waterloo. For an arts program. And the apple did not fall far from the tree.

But here, inspired by two little girls with room-sized imaginations, things are changing.

December was a good time for thought, arts and creativity of all sorts.

We sang Christmas songs and drew holiday pictures.

We maintained our annual holiday tradition of a Canadian version of The Nutcracker ballet. For two hours, we delighted in dancing squirrels and cedar trees and images of old French Canada. Beautiful and endlessly inspiring. When we came home that night Ava wasted exactly 3.5 seconds before donning her ballet duds and entertaining our tannenbaum with a performance.

We also conspired on the construction of this year’s Christmas costume. First, two years ago, there were Christmas tree dresses. I’m not sure how it happened, but on the morning of the daycare Christmas recital, I found in my stores green jersey fabric (so forgiving to sew!) with sparkly specks in it. A Christmas ball and bell as a necklace, some felt ornaments glued to the front, some ruffles around the neck, and a star headband rounded out the ensemble.

Then last year we had a snowflake dress – peekaboo ivory knit fabric with light blue lining and a blue stitched snowflake headband (that remains a dressup favourite).

This year was supposed to be the year of the angel dress, but a last minute requirement to wear red for a school recital prompted a move to Christmas present dresses: red knit with shiny red dots overlaid, and a ruffled bow running from top to bottom and side to side. Oh – and don’t forget the headband.

Most of these ideas are mine with Brett silently approving as he enjoys the girls’ reactions to all things artsy and original.

Enter Edgar Allan Poe.

When Brett was young, his family enjoyed a Christmas tradition of reading the poems together. And curse that man, with his long-term memory of everything from political history to trivial pop culture, if he can’t recite the whole damn thing. All of it.

A go-to rainy day activity for Brett is used book store perusing, and so a large and intimidating volume of Poe’s poems easily found its way into our book collection and became fodder for bedtime reading and discussions with Ava.

A first review and discussion of The Raven, thanks to the unmitigated creativity of Ava’s young mind, very quickly escalated into plans for a holiday performance.

Roles were delegated: “Okay, I’ll tell Eric he can be the raven. Ian is too small to be a main character, so he can be a knocker. What will Edie be?”

Costumes were imagined: “Mom, I need you to sew me an angel costume so I can be Lenore. It needs to be white with a waist band and I need a halo and I need feather wings that are real. You know, that work.”

An intense discourse of the work took place on the two hour drive home for Christmas. Brett read, pausing for questions. The three girls (oh yes, all three), raised hands to ask questions and earn a better understanding of the work: “Plutonium shores? No? Plutonian? Dark? Oh, I get it.”

Upon arrival in Deep River, more practical costumes were constructed: A five dollar Giant Tiger shirt underwent a two-minute sewing machine transformation to become an elegant, Leanore-worthy gown, and a cross-country ski mask was repurposed as a brilliant black beak for the poem’s title character (with lady bug wings standing in for feathers).

And, on the night of our extended family get-together in Mackey, rehearsals took place, with little cousins buzzing about in the abundant costume pile at the BBs place.

Now, I have to admit, I have a hunch that what my oldest daughter would really like to be when she grows up is an engineer or an architect. Or a Nobel prize winner. You know, we’re flexible.

But we simply can’t argue with the smiles and laughter that a few fleeting moments on stage bring our little stars. So for now, the Poe will flow and the show must go on!