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Things were much better in the household now that the boys and I had come to terms with their sexual exploits. There was a sense of normalcy, or as normal as could be with our usual hectic schedule, that hadn't been there since their revelation and my subsequent problem with it.
What hadn't changed during that time, though, was Garth and his effervescent personality. We all looked forward to his after school antics and jokes. He came into the kitchen one night after school with more excitement than usual. We thought that maybe it was because there were only a few more days before Christmas break and that they had had a party in his class. However, that wasn't the case.
"A hungry fox was chasing a rabbit because he wanted to eat it. He couldn't catch it so he stopped and said 'I hate fast food'," he said, followed by his customary giggle.
The fact that he had told a short joke and didn't make us guess the punch line was usually the cue that he had something really important to share.
"Guess what?" he said, as he pulled an envelope out of his pocket before we could react.
"I thought you told us the punch line, Garth," Jake said, with a big smile.
Dana was given the honour of reading the notice that he got at school and shared it with us.
"This says you've been invited to audition for Bengt Jörgen's documentary film on boys and dancing," she said.
Bengt had dropped off the invitation at the school office. He was so excited I thought he was going to fall off the stool at the breakfast bar. We were all very happy and congratulated him.
"Me and Derek both got an invitation," he said, with a big smile.
"Oh, Oh," Glen said, as he verbalized what we were all thinking.
I had hoped that this wasn't going to lead to some unpleasantness in the family, because both fathers were adamant that their boys weren't going to take ballet lessons.
"What?" Garth said, to his brother.
"Maybe we should make sure Mom gets the invitation first and then she can tell Dad," Glen said.
As we feared, things did not go well in the Webster household that night. The next day after school, it was obvious that Garth wasn't doing well with John's negative answer, since he was subdued and didn't have a joke to tell us.
"Garth's not great today. He's really unhappy with Dad. Mom and I tried to get Dad to change his mind last night, but he wouldn't," Glen said, when Garth went off to the bathroom.
The boys tried to cheer him up, to no avail. He was really bothered by the chain of events and wasn't willing to talk about it, which was unusual for Garth.
It wasn't just Garth who was unhappy with the decision, as a call to my niece, Janet, that night revealed the same conclusion in her household. Jake had spent an hour on the phone with Rachel and when he finished he told us that he was concerned about her.
"She's really stressed out, because her father's not budging from his decision. Her mother is really angry and Rachel feels helpless. She wants to help Derek but her father is being very... obstinate," he said, as he searched for an appropriate word from his ever-expanding vocabulary.
Both Dana and I were concerned, not just for Derek but for Rachel. She was a very sensitive girl and loved her brother very much. She also had a great relationship with her father, at least until the present controversy. I decided to call and see if there was anything I could do.
"Bob is such a stubborn so-and-so. He doesn't realize the damage he's doing to Derek's self esteem, but this has also affected Rachel," she said, as she gave a big sigh.
Janet said that she was going to continue trying to persuade Bob to change his mind. I didn't envy Bob's situation in the next little while, as my niece could be very 'persuasive', but I didn't have a great deal of sympathy for him.
The next day, Dana came home from the catering business and told us it had been a frosty few hours with John. He was clearly feeling a great deal of pressure about his decision. Susan usually tried to be neutral in these types of situations, since Garth and Glen weren't her biological sons, but this time she was more assertive than she usually was, especially with the event that happened next.
"Ms. Pauline, Garth's instructor from the summer school, came into the Old Firehall Gourmet in the morning to buy some Christmas gifts," she said.
Dana found that to be odd, since she didn't live in the town. Ms. Pauline mentioned to Susan that she had received a notice in her ballet studio about the auditions for the documentary and she let Susan know that Garth and Derek should try out. She also seemed to know that John was not in favour of this.
"It was the wrong time for John to walk into the store from the catering kitchen, because Ms. Pauline can be very candid," she said.
She took John to task over his reluctance to let Garth try out and pointed out a number of things to persuade him to change his mind. She told him that there were three boys that took ballet in her beginner class, who were hockey players. She also pointed out that ballet was excellent training for any other form of dancing and that many professional hockey and football players took ballet lessons to improve their balance and agility.
"When she mentioned a couple of athlete's names that had taken lessons from her, John was surprised," Dana added.
Ms. Pauline invited John to her studio to observe the class with the boys in it and told them she was going to have the same conversation with Bob about Derek.
"John was still reluctant, but Susan answered for him," Dana said. "Then she gave him the same stare I give you when you need direction," she added, with a big smile and kiss.
Things were very hectic around our house as we were once again hosting Christmas dinner for the entire family, including the Websters. This controversy over Garth's audition wasn't making things any easier as we moved closer to the big day.
Since we were now at the last weekend before Christmas, Sean and Melissa wanted to get together to exchange presents. He was getting ready on the Friday to go to Toronto and when I went down the hall to see how Sean was coming with his packing for his overnight stay with Carol and Kyle, Dana and Jake were talking about something in his bedroom.
I had ordered Sean a limousine to drive him to Toronto, which was going to arrive soon. Melissa had a concert that evening with her youth orchestra that she was playing with and then a hockey game the next morning.
"You don't need to worry, Dad. I'm going to be with the Morgans the whole time. Melissa and I aren't going to be alone... much," he said, with a big smile.
"Behave, young man," I said as I gave him a fatherly squeeze.
I was sure there would be some opportunity over the couple of days for them to get in some 'quality' time. Even if the Morgans had other ideas, I knew Melissa would set them straight.
"Well I'm sure you'll have lots to talk about," I said, as I gave him a big smile.
After we got Sean off to Toronto, Dana and I had our tea in the living room. Jake was getting ready to go out on a date with Rachel with Dana's RDX.
"What was the big conference with Jake in his room?" I asked her.
"I wanted to go over some important details for him to remember," she said.
"I thought we said we would cut the boys some slack with their love life," I replied.
I had assumed that Dana was talking to him about cooling his passions, but I was mistaken.
"I told him where the insurance certificate was and the ownership in case he was pulled over by the police. I also told him what to do in case he had an accident and which hospital he should go to .... ."
She still didn't have a lot of confidence in his driving. He had improved, but he was still a work in process.
"Now dear, he's become much better with the extra practice driving to school in the morning," I said, with a smile.
"Al, you have blinders on when it comes to Jake's driving, just like you do with that little mutt that wreaks havoc around here on a daily basis," she replied, as Barney jumped up to cuddle in beside her.
Dana usually went to bed around eleven, but because Jake's curfew was 12:30, she wanted to stay up.
"Just in case there's an emergency, I'll be ready and awake," she said.
When Jake came in the house Dana was sound asleep on the couch cuddled up beside me. We were watching the old movie 'The Blues Brothers' with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and thank goodness she had missed the big car crash scene where they drove a car into the middle of a mall.
"I thought you'd be in bed," he said.
Dana was now awake and asked whether he had a good time or not and of course he said he did.
"I'm glad you didn't have any trouble with no parking signs tonight," she said, as she gave him a big smile and kiss.
We had invited Fin and Tatania to stay with us for the holidays and they were more than happy to accept. They drove from Halifax and arrived a few days before Christmas. They were very thrilled to see their grandson again and Sean had returned from Toronto and was happy to see them, as well. They had some parcels with them and one in particular was of a fragile nature and had to be stored carefully and out of Sean's view.
"This is a special gift that we hope he likes," Tatania said, when Fin was out in the car getting their bags. "This was something that Fin wanted to give him."
I was curious, but it was obvious that it was to be a surprise for everyone.
As if things weren't busy enough, Jake, Sean and Charles had their grade six Conservatory exams two days before Christmas and they also were singing at the Christmas Eve pageant, along with Derek, Garth and Stéphane.
The boys chose to have their exams in the nearby city, rather than go to Toronto, like Stéphane did, who now had his results. Needless to say, he passed with flying colours.
"He got honours," Jake said.
"The examiner commented on how good we all were," Sean said, as the boys smiled.
Fin and Tatania praised the boys when they heard how they backed up Stéphane in his exam and they were pleased that the boys were going to take their own conservatory exams.
"It's a sense of accomplishment when they're over and the feedback from the examiner is invaluable," Tatania said.
"In Nova Scotia, if you get your grade eight, that counts as a subject towards your high school diploma," Fin told them.
"That's also the case in Ontario. Your sisters did that when they were in high school," I said, to the boys.
They were also invaluable resources to the boys, as they gave them some last minute help with their exam prep. This was something that was out of my league, as my experience was with piano exams and Dana and I were happy that they gave the three of them some expert advice before the big day. Even though Tatania was an oboist, her knowledge of performing and playing technique was extensive, particularly given her father's conducting career.
They spent a few hours in the studio with all three of them, giving them pointers the day before their exams.
"You boys have nothing to worry about. Just play like you did for us," Fin said, when they all came upstairs.
"You boys are good performers. Just play with the passion all of you are capable of," Tatania said.
Even though Charles had Sandy at home to help him, he needed to play with Sean, because they were doing a joint performance for their exam and they chose Mozart's Duo for violin and viola in G major. They were required to do two pieces, but instead of doing two individual ones they were given permission to do the second one together.
Both Fin and Tatania were happy with the selections that the boys chose for their individuals pieces. Sean chose a Veracini Sonata and Charles selection was the second movement of Carl Stamitz's Viola concerto no. 3. I wasn't familiar with either composer, but they were very pleasant pieces to listen to.
The pieces Jake's teacher chose for him were more recognizable. The one Dana and I like the best was Bach's famous Prelude in G minor which was usually played by a cello, but was also popular for the bass. The other piece that he was playing was an excerpt from Haydn's Symphony #31.
"Those new bows are making a great deal of difference, boys," Fin said, referring to the presents that Tatania and Fin had given Sean and Jake on their last visit.
I drove the boys down to the conservatory building the next day and waited for them to finish. I remembered those days from my youth when I took my piano exams. These were stressful events, but all three of them seemed fairly composed when they came out and they were very positive about their performances.
"Things were good, I think," Sean said.
"We did our scales, sight reading and individual pieces first then we came together with both examiners for the duo," Charles said.
"I didn't make any big mistakes, just a couple of minor things," Jake said.
We stopped into Tim Horton's on the way home and had a bite to eat. Even though it was early afternoon and they all had had lunch beforehand, they were ready to eat again by the time we made it to the order counter.
"You don't want to spoil your dinner," I said, as they ordered the full sandwich combos.
"Oh, don't worry. We'll be ready in a couple of hours," Jake said, as the three of them gave me big smiles.
That evening the Websters came over for dinner to have a visit with Fin and Tatania. Things were going to be hectic on Christmas day and we felt this would be a better opportunity for all of us to have a somewhat relaxing evening and catch up on things.
Garth was still not himself as John had not changed his mind. We tried to gently persuade him to let Garth audition but we weren't getting very far. He once again voiced his objection and said that Garth was too busy and this would compound an already hectic schedule and impact on his school work. Fin and Tatania were supportive of the opportunity Garth was given, but they were careful not to butt in when they realized that this was causing a major riff in the family.
In the course of the conversation we also found out how Ms. Pauline's visit to the Old Firehall Gourmet came about, because Glen revealed that he had made a call to her the next day after Garth got the note about the audition. Glen then asked when his father was going to go to see Mandy's ballet class and John told all of us that he wasn't going.
I couldn't really put my finger on what his major objection was, but we didn't get a chance to think about his reply very long. Glen literally exploded with a tirade on his father that had all of us at the table speechless.
"That's just bull%&@&. You're afraid taking ballet lessons is going to make him gay. Am I gay, because I'm an artist? You know, lots of famous artists were. Do you think Melissa's parents were afraid she'd become a dyke because she plays hockey. Nothing's going to make you gay. You're born that way. I found that out the hard way when I was stupid towards Charles when I first met him. Garth just wants to dance and he has a great opportunity to learn from an expert. You're just embarrassed to tell people what he's doing, but it isn't fu@%&@ about you; it's about my brother."
There was total silence. It looked like John was going to respond, but he thought better of it, because Glen had that fire in his eyes that I'd seen before on the hockey rink. Glen didn't use profanity around us very often anymore, as he knew how we felt about it. But, when he did it had great impact. This was also not the occasion for any of us to take him to task for using it.
On Christmas Eve, John and Susan were going to close up the business and then meet us at the church. Garth was singing and Glen was taking care of the sound system. We agreed to pick them up and take the boys over with us. When we arrived at the apartment, Garth came bounding out of his room with a box to show us.
"Look at my early Christmas present from my Dad," he said, as he handed the box to Dana.
It was a pair of ballet shoes and inside the box was a card. It said that John had booked an audition time on January 3rd and that Derek was also booked in right after Garth.
John and Bob had taken up Ms. Pauline's invitation to see the ballet class with the three boys in it. Glen's outburst had no doubt made a difference and whatever had happened during the visit changed their minds. I suspected it was when she talked to them afterwards, but whatever chain of events took place we were all happy at the result.
The Christmas pageant was a play about the birth of Christ acted out by some adults and kids. There were a few carols sung by the congregation at various times and Sean, Charles, Jake, Derek, Garth and Stéphane were singing along with a scaled down version of the regular Sunday choir. The five of them also took a song by themselves, which was 'The Huron Carol'.
Both Derek and Garth looked a whole lot happier now that things had been resolved with their auditions and they were very animated as they took the second verse by themselves as the other boys sang harmony in the background. Each of the boys had parts of a verse that they sang by themselves and when they finished everyone in the church clapped.
Tatania and Fin were very impressed at how well the boys did and it seemed that they were thoroughly enjoying their visit. They had to wait afterwards while Dana gave all the boys big hugs but they managed to get in their congratulations to the boys.
I made a point to talk to both Bob and John, after the service. The two of them were having a chat by themselves in the foyer as we all waited for the boys to gather their things from the rehearsal room.
"Our wives were insistent that we needed to take Ms. Pauline up on her offer of observing a class," Bob said.
"Glen's soliloquy also had something to do with it," John said, with a sheepish smile. "It was Mandy's class and we were very impressed by how rigourous the instruction was," John said.
"These three boys in the class were not pansies. They were a little older than Derek and Garth, but they were definitely hockey players," Bob added.
"They were horsing around before class and knocked over a chair in the waiting room. One look from Ms. Pauline straightened them out, though," John said, as both Bob and he laughed.
Bob and John admitted that they were blinded by the stereotype of boys and ballet and the class was an eye opener. They also admitted that the family pressure was also a factor in both of them changing their minds.
"One good thing is that things are back to normal with my wife, including our bedroom activities," Bob said, as they both chuckled.
On Christmas day we waited to open our major presents until the Websters joined us. They arrived around 9:30 and things really livened up, as Garth started to entertain us. He enjoyed Fin and Tatania, as much as they enjoyed his company. He had just taken his coat off and given them a welcoming hug when he launched into one of his new jokes. It was good to see the old Garth back again.
"There were these chess guys and they had a tournament. They were staying in a hotel and they were hanging around talking for a long time in the lobby one night. The manager came over and told them to leave and the one chess guy asked why," he said, as he paused to giggle.
"Did I miss something?" Tatania asked, as she was puzzled by Garth's pause.
"No, this must be a good one because he's started to laugh before the punch line," Jake said.
"The manager said 'because I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer'," Garth said, as he sang the last few words.
It was Christmas and we were all polite and laughed at the joke. Fin and Tatania were laughing the loudest, but they weren't necessarily laughing at the joke.
Garth had got his special present on Christmas Eve and even though he got other things that were more expensive, the ballet shoes meant more to him than all the other presents.
Glen got some art supplies, but he also got a week at the Toronto Art school with a professional artist as his mentor, which he was thrilled about.
Jake got three soccer tickets to a game with his favourite soccer team in Italy from us and it wasn't until he opened the gift from his uncle and aunt in Italy that he realized that we were sending him for another visit again this summer to see them. They had got tickets for the three of them to see Verdi's opera 'Un ballo in maschera' at the world famous La Scala opera house in Milan and he was so happy. He called his aunt and uncle in Italy to thank them after we were finished.
Dana was not surprised this time by her new vehicle that was in the garage, as she was with me when we went shopping. We bought her a Mercedes GLK SUV and to accommodate the new vehicle I sold my BMW M6 convertible that had been collecting dust since the summer. Dana's Acura RDX, which was almost like new, was going to be the boys' vehicle. They hadn't noticed that the BMW wasn't there in the third garage when we went out to see the new vehicle.
"So, what are you going to do with Mom's RDX, Sean asked?"
"I think that's yours and Jake's other present," Dana said.
Both of their eyes lit up like spotlights.
"Cool," Jake said.
"You mean we get to use it anytime we want?" Sean asked.
"Within limits," I said, with a big smile.
We all moved back into the living room and we thought that we were finished with all the gifts, but Fin and Tatania went to their room and brought out the special gift they had carefully stored in their closet.
"This isn't new, but I think you'll appreciate what it is," Fin said as he handed the gift to Sean.
Sean carefully unwrapped it and then opened the case to reveal an old violin. He was puzzled until Fin told him what it was.
"This was passed down to me by my father. This violin was made in 1925 by the famous Canadian luthier, Camille Couture. I haven't played it much over the years and I think it's time to pass it on to another generation," he said, as we all smiled.
Sean didn't quite know what to say and he was a little overwhelmed. He just got up and gave his grandfather and grandmother a big hug. When he finally recovered, Fin told us that his father had played first violin with Symphony Nova Scotia in his day and the violin had beautiful tone that had got better with age.
"Let's hear something," I said.
He played his exam piece and after he was finished we gave him a big clap. He was absolutely thrilled at the gift and the sentiment behind it.
The rest of the morning and afternoon we all pitched in cooking the Christmas dinner. John went back to the catering kitchen to get the turkey, ham and French Canadian tourtiere that he was cooking and by the time everything was ready we had quite a feast.
Dana and Jake made the caramelized brussel sprouts with a dijon sauce and prosciutto crisps; Sean and I made green beans with almandine crumble and Garth and Glen made garlic mashed potatoes with parmesan cheese. I hesitate to call Garth's effort a contribution as he made more of a mess with the electric beater, whipping up the potatoes, which Glen had to clean up.
Dessert was the traditional Burger family caramel sauce with steamed carrot pudding, which my sister was responsible for. Everyone was stuffed by the time we were finished.
After everyone had left Dana and I had a chance to talk to the boys before they got ready for bed.
"You know we're going to have our G2 licences this year," Sean said, with a smile.
"This will take some stress off of you guys, now. We won't have to ask you for one of your cars all the time," Jake said.
Dana muttered something that she was reluctant to repeat. I could make out the word stress, but that was about all. I really didn't need to ask about the rest of her comment, though
"And I'll be able to drive to Toronto by myself," Sean reminded us.
I knew it wouldn't be long before my grey hair would turn to pure white.
Mozart viola and violin duo in G major
Veracini - Sonata accademica op. 2/12, 3rd mvt.
Stamitz - Viola concerto no. 3, 2nd mvt
Bach Prelude in G minor
The excerpt from Haydn's Symphony #31
The Huron Carol
The Huron Carol History
The Brussel sprouts recipe
French Tourtiere recipe
Green Beans recipe
Mercedes Benz Site