The first real memories I have, ones where I can remember not moments or small fragments, but I clearly remember the way it smelled, the hue of the lights, I can feel hands on me and how the air in there felt when I breathed it in. It all took place here:
The darkness of the backstage area and how the velvet curtains felt as I brushed up against them when I passed. How the adults could never understand why I didn't want to sit out in the audience and enjoy the show like all the other children. I wanted to see things from a different angle, even at this young age. One where I would feel the darkness and watch the faces of the children as my mother and father moved among them.
Sometimes, I would sit in the audience on a red velveteen carpet. I would sit alone and always some parent would ask me where my own parents were and I told them to wait and watch and I will show them. Many an adult, (always women), would invite me to sit in their laps. My mother and father would pass by my end of the circle, the puppets never failed to acknowledge me. I would turn up my face to the person I was sitting near and whisper, "There is my mother."
The workshop was a playroom. Not one where I moved about and really played, but in my head I did. I loved to touch the unfinished costumes, the smooth wooden parts of the marionettes being carved and the shavings of wood that littered the floors and tables.
I frequented the kitchens there, hoping to entice the workers into giving me an extra cookie. There was a room where many children had birthday parties and I liked to sit in the room, by myself at a table and watch them all, with their smiling faces lit up with candles. The cakes were pretty and I sometimes was offered a piece. If not the kitchen girls brought out to me a cookie and one of those little cups of ice cream, the kind you eat with a wooden spoon.
All of this, this was my first playground.
It still exists and is completely unchanged. Entering it is like time travel, right down to the smell of it.
Come next Halloween, you can check out his wonderfully Spooktacular Puppet extravaganza. See you there.