Sneaking Off To The Opera This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Sneaking Off to the Opera
by M. B., Fitchburg, MA
When I was eight, my parents went out a lot. They would often go to the opera, or to the theater, or any place where one was expected to blend in and stand out at the same time. My father would press his hair into shiny defined sections on his head while humming an aria, and would moan the notes while fastening his bow tie. He would smile broadly when I watched him shave, aggressively humming the same tunes along with him, thinking wouldn't it be a marvel if I could learn operas like I do with Sesame Street skits. My mother was never seen preparing for the evening because she would close herself in the cocoon of her bedroom until she was ready to bolt into the bathroom to add finishing touches and leave the scent of expensive perfume hanging in the hallway. She was also impressed by my curious interest in opera.
Normally, during all their embellishing and bustling upstairs, I would recline in the TV room and dine on soggy fish sticks. I would also wait for the doorbell to ring. The singsong chime of the front doorbell was rarely heard unless a visitor came to our house on a business venture, religious crusade or grade school fund-raiser. There was, of course, one additional visitor who used the front doorbell - the baby-sitter. I had always had a myriad of sitters to choose from, but if I never had a specific preference, I was always greeted with a surprise.
There was Susan Barrister who had gum permanently fixed in her mouth and was condemned to chew it like cud for hours at a time, despite the need to breathe, speak, and eat. Then there was Uncle Sherman, a talented violinist, who entertained me for hours, and who was only allowed to sit once because of a suggestion he made that women should be kept in a box until they are ready to be used, which my mother took extraordinary offense to. Then there was Belinda Carmichael who always referred to herself using both names, with extra breath on the "-inda" and the "-armichael." She watched PBS with me and then after sending me to bed, she would watch anything provocative that was on. I remember Beth Weston, who fastened the disclaimer, "Yea,h I know my name sounds like the hotel, wicked funny" immediately after every introduction. Beth had a hard time wrenching the phone away from the side of her face, and was not much of a conversationalist. There was Bradley James Michael Stewart Jr. III who brought books along with him and set them heavily on the foyer table before tilting his glasses and shaking my parents' hands. When they left, he would threaten to store me securely in the closet if I told my parents what channel he watched when he came over. He would pick up the books, still on the table and leave with a wide smile on his face when my parents returned.
In all my parents' treks to the opera house (over 20, I believe), despite their suspicions that I was a subterranean connoisseur of their private culture, they never invited me. All of their friends thought they were of the new school of parents where cultural exposure at an early age is paramount to proper development. They never did though. They probably feared that I would crave popcorn, or Goobers, or a Rigoletto T-shirt, or perhaps that I just wasn't old enough to handle it. I was never bitter, though, only disappointed that I was being left out of something that my mother and father loved so dearly. It was as though clandestine meetings with a brother I had never known were being conducted at the opera house. If they were trying to escape from me, it wouldn't work.
I also found it odd how my parents laid their trust in these buffoons who were supposed to watch over me. Could they seriously believe in their hearts that these children of the idiot box were capable enough to replace my parents? These teenagers, who didn't even notice me on the phone with the cab company giving out my address, or notice my escape through the back door, or the stuffed animals under my blankets that were supposed to look like a child's body, were to guard and protect me? It was enough to keep my mind busy on the cab ride to the opera, and during those parts of the show which I didn't understand.
No, I was never bitter toward them. I was only amazed at their naivet", and was satisfied with the notion of having the best seats in the house: right next to my Uncle Sherman in the orchestra pit, who plucked the strings on the violin like he was telling a joke, and winked at me after every aria.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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