One of Riley's passions has always been cats. She's had two since she was four years old and she adores them. She has their every feature memorized.
When we found out Cats! was coming to Cleveland's Playhouse Square, we decided to get tickets and included Riley in the process. We looked at some of the pictures of the show on line.
"Riley, I think the cats actually come out into the audience during this show. Do you want to sit toward the front to see them, or would you feel more comfortable up in the balcony, further from the stage?"
"The balcony," she said decidedly.
Score! She advocated for herself and saved us money with her choice of nosebleed seats!
Thirty minutes before we were to leave for the show, she decided to change clothes. She put on black pants, a black shirt (borrowed one of mine, she's getting so big),black socks and shoes, and her kitty cat ears from an old Halloween costume. Then she asked me to paint her nose black, which I did, with eye liner.
We left for the theater.
It was freezing so my husband dropped us off under the marquee and went to park the car. In the lobby we stopped and looked at a Cats! poster. The set looked a bit spooky. Shuddering, Riley asked me softly, "Mom, do you think I can handle it?"
Cupping her jaw I looked her in the eye and said with confidence, "I do."
In the lobby, people pointed her out, stating how cute she looked in her cat ears. The ushers ate her up. Smiling, she bashfully looked down at her feet.
"I hope I'm not embarrassing you in this get-up," she said to me and her brother.
"Riley you are far from embarrassing me, you look absolutely adorable and out of all the people here you are the only one who thought to pay homage by dressing up. I applaud your creativity."
Turns out Cats! was not too much for her at all. She loved it.
There was a time not so long ago when I feared we'd never be able to go to the theater. A time when the sound of applause caused her to shriek in pain. A time when even Sesame St. on television was too overwhelming for her.
My plan is to remember this night, the next time I fear anything is out of her reach.
Michelle O'Neil's daughter was diagnosed with Asperger's several years ago. They've both come a long way since. More of their story can be found on Michelle's blog, Full-Soul-Ahead!