A man pounded a large drum. Penelope clasped her hands to her ears. “Too loud” she said.
I tried to let her know what was happening when a masked man appeared next to us. As I began talking a large red creature emerged, towered over the masked man. It shook, mouth open, ready to eat the first person in his path. Penelope screamed and clung to me for protection. My reassuring words were drowned in tears and howling.
The masked man and the creature passed, allowing me to exit where they entered. I heard someone in the banquet room say “aww” as we exited. I kept telling Penelope it would be alright. I was laughing nervously and on the verge of tears as I imagined how traumatic this was to my child. This was not how I imagined our evening ending.
Three hours earlier we arrived at Happy Valley, the restaurant hosting the Atlanta chapter of Families with Children from China Chinese New Year celebration. We passed a wall of fish tanks, or rather one large tank compartmentalized to hold patron’s dinner choices. Penelope’s fascination with the lobsters, crabs, and assorted fish kept us from the banquet hall for several minutes. We reached the reception table and stared at the large room, complete with a stage, lighting, and seating for 240 people. After signing in we headed to table 23.
Unbeknownst to us the admission price included a family portrait. We took several photos, some kneeling and some with me holding Penelope. Based on our experience posing for photographs it will be a miracle if any of the photos turn out. With photos taken we perused the table with books, jewelry, ornaments, and DVD’s for a few minutes.
Penelope clung to my leg while another little girl, roughly the same age, appeared behind us. Penelope watched as the girl played with chopsticks until her father confiscated them. The girls looked at each other with curiosity until we headed back to our table.
We talked to several families and guessed whether the dim sum dishes were meat free. When the last plate of food was delivered Penelope got antsy and wanted to walk around. I got up and allowed her to run around in the back of the banquet hall. On stage the talent show was taking place. Gymnastics, music, singing. None of it held Penelope’s attention. I picked her up and pointed to the stage, trying to generate some interest.
While Penelope was having a great time running back and forth I wondered if I was being the jerk dad who lets his daughter disrupt a large social event. (We’ll find out next year if our payment to the event is denied 🙂 ). She was quiet and just ran back and forth. I knelt down and grabbed her. As the evening was winding down I held Penelope in anticipation of the lion dance.
“This should be exciting” I thought. I was right about the exciting part, just not in the way I anticipated.
Overall it was a great evening and reminder that our family is part of a larger community.
Like all communities it takes time for me to find my place.