I’ve written before about how wrong my expectations can be when it comes to my children, and how much fun it is when they surprise me. At the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire it was Nathan who surprised me most, with his appreciation of the various shows we watched.
I’d been talking up the joust and sword-fighting mainly because I thought the boys (especially Ryan) would get a kick out of watching people battle. When we discovered that the actual joust was preceded by several rounds of equestrian displays, I was a bit worried — and Ryan, true to form, became increasingly impatient. Nathan, however, seemed riveted, and eventually I figured out why: partly he liked the horses, but mostly he liked the cheering.
Not being a family that engages in or particularly cares about organized sports, my boys had never been to so much as a Little League Game before. Their biggest exposure to sports has been the football my Dad watches over Thanksgiving weekend. I think when the announcer divided the crowd into sections to cheer for the different riders, it was a novel and thrilling experience for Nathan. We were rooting for Wales, and he yelled out with real vigor whenever our rider was up. By the end of the joust, unable to sit still, he’d migrated down to within a few feet of the fence and paced back and forth, jumping and cheering at every opportunity.
He was so excited by the process, actually, that he took us back that afternoon for the second show. The crowd was much thinner in the afternoon heat, but that didn’t stop him from cheering through the entire thing.
And it wasn’t just the jousting that he wanted to watch. There were at least four stages scattered around the Faire, with a constant rotation of performances at each one, and I was privately astonished when he wanted to watch a troupe performing gypsy dance. When they invited people up on stage to join in their last dance, he clearly wanted to go — and when I offered to go with him, he went for it. Then he decided to stay for the people singing ballads that came on afterwards. (Ryan spent much of this time hunting rats in the area and pretending to stab things with his new wooden knife.)
Our last performance of the day was an extremely tongue-in-cheek presentation of the Pyramus and Thisbe scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, done by an excellent trio of actors (with a little help from the audience). The boys liked it, particularly when the “dead” Pyramus kept correcting his companion. So in addition to the other excitement of the Faire, I can report their first exposure to Shakespeare.