While on vacation, Milo told me this little gem:
"Mom! The moon says it loves me!"
The moon was, in fact, smiling down on us brightly, hanging in the sky like a slice of ripe melon. The cosmos was celebrating with us.
My little buddy had a fantastic fourth birthday in California. It was pretty much any kid's dream birthday as we went to Disneyland to take advantage of the "Free admission on your birthday" promotion. Because Violet is not yet two, the four of us got in for the price of two tickets! Not bad!
There were two things which we were interested in doing at the Happiest Place on Earth -- meeting Cinderella and watching and maybe participating in the Jedi Academy show. Well, the line to meet Cinderella was 90 minutes all three times we checked on it, so we decided that since Violet didn't know she was going to miss seeing Cinderella, we would skip it and save the princess meet-and-greet for the next trip. After our first attempt at seeing the royalty, we checked the show schedule and determined that one of the presentations for the Jedi Academy was concluding and that if we bustled over to Tomorrowland, we could score some prime real estate at the front of the crowd for the next presentation.
Milo and I sat down on the terrazzo floor in front of the stage while Scott, Violet and our dear friends Carol, Alex and Hannah grabbed some lunch. While we waited the 45 minutes for the next show, Milo and I talked about what we were going to watch and I told him that they would pick some kids from the audience (aged 4-11) to participate and learn how to be a Jedi.
"You mean like learning how to use a light saver? And the Force?"
Yes, exactly that. Milo's eyes widened.
Now, as I've blogged before, he's been struggling with some social anxiety for the last 15 months or so; I really thought that he would balk if I suggested that he volunteer to be a Jedi. I asked him, "Would you like to learn how to be a Jedi?"
"You mean go up there and use a light saver? We could do that!"
"No, buddy, I mean YOU would go up there and do that -- they don't let mommies come to the Jedi Academy."
"No! I couldn't do that if you won't come." He paused, "But I can already use a light saver and the Force."
"Yes, you can. I think you could do a great job if you wanted to be a Jedi!"
"I do want to be a Jedi! I think they should pick me!"
He was coming around to the idea of volunteering. Just then, Scott brought him some lunch and a little sign that said "It's my 4th birthday!" Milo asked what the sign said and why he had it. I told him that it might help him get picked to be a Padawan. He considered it, then propped it in front of him, leaning it against his scuffed green shoe. Scott returned for a third time, this time bearing Milo's clone trooper baseball cap -- or, in Milo-ese, his "clome stooper" hat.
The sound guys made their way back to the booth and the familiar strains of the Star Wars theme pierced through the crowd noise -- the Jedis were arriving! First up were two assistant Jedi instructors that warmed the crowd and offered the advice that if a kid wanted to be picked for the Jedi Academy, he/she needed to show lots of enthusiasm. Suddenly, from the back of the house, the Jedi Master came running! Milo squealed and cheered!
The Jedi Master took the stage and said something that I can't remember -- I think both Milo and I were getting excited about the selection process. He started picking kids from house left to house right and we were sitting just right of center. As his gaze moved towards us, I grabbed Milo's hands and the sign, started cheering loudly, yanking him off his feet with my excitement. The Jedi Master looked our direction and I bellowed, "It's his BIRTHDAY!"
"How old is he?" inquired the Master.
"Yes, we'll take him!"
Milo couldnt' believe it -- he balked for just a moment when the assistant tried to bring him to the group, but I knelt quickly and said, "You can do it! You can be a Jedi!" He nodded and went with the assistant, slipping his hands in his mouth with anxiety.
It is in the best interest of the entertainer to put a cute little kid front and center, so naturally Milo was the Padawan closest to the Master. They had slipped a brown robe over his shoulders as he ascended the stairs to the stage, his white hat was pulled low over his eyes until the Master looked at him, smiled, adjusted the hat so we could all see his face and said, "Let's get started, Milo!"
I think Milo had forgotten that he was wearing a button with his name on it, but he was completely impressed that the Jedi Master knew his name. So impressed, in fact, that he wasn't aware that they were repeating a Jedi oath. He chewed his fingers, peering through the crowd to find first me, then daddy, to whom he gave a thumb's up smile.
The assistants gave each child a light saber, then Milo focused on the task at hand -- learning a light saber combination of attacks. It proved a little funny that he could engage his light saber, but not necessarily disengage it -- he couldn't do that as fast as the other kids, so for a while, he was JUST getting the light saber disengaged when it was time to engage for the next kata. So cute! In fact, that's what I overheard a woman saying about him, the littlest Padawan.
Suddenly, just as the lesson was finishing, the ominous Darth Vader theme boomed through the speakers and the Jedi Master sent all of the kids stage left. Storm troopers marched down the center aisle with Darth Maul. Darth Vader emerged from under a lift in the stage, shrouded in fog. They were under attack!
Thank goodness all of those kids had light sabers and had just learned a choreographed attack! The Jedi Master indicated that the kids on the stage, including Milo, were to take on Darth Vader and the kids on the floor were to battle Darth Maul. Milo was second in line for Vader.
The Jedi Master called him forward by name, he scooted quickly to his side, light saber drawn prematurely. Once again, he had just managed to get it disengaged when the master called for him to engage. Indicating where Milo was to attack, he ran Milo through the set of blows they had practiced, Milo did an especially good "Duck!" maneuver. As he finished his combination, he got a "Good job!" and was escorted to the floor, where he took a seat along with the other finishing Padawan.
He searched for me, beaming with pride, and gave me a thumb's up smile. Then he said, "I want to battle Darth Maul, too!" I laughed. Eventually, battling 25 kids proved to be too much for the baddies and they retreated -- the Jedi had saved the day!! The kids were all marched up onstage where they were presented with a certificate of achievement and disrobed (they were disarmed after the solo fights).
Milo came running back to me, thrilled that on his birthday he had beaten Darth Vader in a light saber battle! Thankfully, I had been snapping pictures like a sports photographer on speed, so I did capture his battle in between the cheering and tearing up.
I can't say how proud of him I was for participating -- both Scott and I thought there was a real chance of him bolting from the stage, paralyzed by anxiety, but Milo did it! He conquered not only Darth Vader, but a tiny bit of that anxiety that has been his dark side for the past year...
And me? Well, I got the exquisite experience of watching my little man taking a big step forward right in front of my eyes -- and the entire crowd.