Blended family funDisney’s “Beauty and the Beast” connected me to grown-up granddaughters and an almost-three-year-old great granddaughter five years between performances. Theater provides benefits of many family stripes.

I share the arts a lot, finding my place as the step-mom and step-grandmom in a big and still growing southern family. Been seeking and providing balance for the past 33 years.

Family blending is like that. Give and take, use and adapt. Like “Beauty and the Beast.”

I could have stopped with the pleasure of watching a traveling version of the show with little Ella in our town of Tifton, Georgia, and simply recalling the Broadway production with high schoolers Monique and Laura.

Have fun with the children, maybe be generous, and be on my way.

Better, I think, to tie experiences together, to build another bridge among the disparate generations.

That’s why I told the little girl about seeing the show with her older cousins, not that it meant much to her, and why I texted the grown-up girls to say how much fun to recall our trip to Manhattan.

Building connections and blurring the lines with shared experiences seems to me to be an equalizer, a balancer in a family where some of the uncles are younger than the nephews and not even a decade separates 62-year-old me from some of my husband’s children.

That New York trip was all about sharing art, culture and heritage with clever teenage girls I inherited through marriage.

Blending Family in Manhattan

Life’s quite fine in the South and the winter weather superb, but I didn’t want these southern born and bred girls heading to college without experiencing Manhattan. I’m a Jersey girl so New York City was a big part of my growing up years. Easy to do in the ‘60s, safe and exciting. Believed I knew my way around and could share the best.

All about giving them an experience, right? Sure but at least as much as giving me a solid reason to return. Wonder if step-grandparenting is self-serving in ways different from birthline parenting? Or tinged with pressure to be accepted, maybe even loved?

Many more tales of blending family, travel and the day-to-day are needed before that picture gains clarity. Philosophy aside, we three had fun in New York. Should have been four with my friend and business colleague along too but illness struck so the girls had me all to themselves. Hmmm.

Blending family in ManhattanMonique and Laura met Manhattan at Christmas traveling with their grandfather’s wife, hence a married-into-the-family grandmother.They’re fashionistas, now and then, so I feared they’d blow off my “sensible comfortable shoes” boring grandmother advice and dress to the nines for Manhattan.

Small town southern life does not prepare one for the blocks to be marched in culture-filled New York City. My agenda included tickets for Symphony Hall and an off-off Broadway play and permission for them to choose a performance at the half-price ticket booth. That’s how we got to “Beauty and the Beast.”

Believing, too much probably, in teaching moments I felt called upon to explain from our audience seats about the complicated sets, backstage details, flying apparatus, etc.

Laura, 15, set me straight. “Grandmother, we have performances at our school.” They also balanced my agenda with Rockefeller Center and ice skating, a fond little girl memory for me. Wobbly but upright I was thrilled to be on the ice again.

Gymnast and tennis player these athletic girls but far more interested in the marriage proposal suddenly happening below the golden Prometheus than skating in circles.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral high on my list too. They far preferred taking their pictures in front of Coco Channel’s store or the David Letterman marquee.

I backed off my list a little, they curbed teenage reflexes a little and I hope we’ll return together.

Photo Above Left: Ella before “Beauty and the Beast” doing puzzles with great grandmother