Dear CET Families:
Please read Rose’s remarkable story and consider making a generous contribution to Children’s Educational Theatre today! Visit cetsalem.org to make a donation online or send your check in to CET at 710 Howard Street SE, Salem, OR 97302.
Rose was late to crawl. She was late to walk. She was late to talk.
She played differently than other kids. We knew not to compare her to other children, but she was our first. We didn’t really know what “normal” looked like. Not that we placed much value on being “normal.”
Somewhere in her third or fourth year we started to actually hear what people were trying to tell us; our daughter might have a developmental disability. In some ways we pushed each other away. In other ways we held each other closer than ever because we loved this girl so very much. I wish I had kept a journal so I could remember the details. I’m glad I didn’t keep a journal because I can’t remember the details.
Through it all Rose loved to act things out. She thrived when we read and acted out stories. I can still hear her saying, “Read The Cat in the Hat!” Once upon a time, I had the first 15 or so pages of that crazy book memorized because I had to be in character. She memorized many more pages, and corrected me when I said/did it wrong. We connected. Through acting. I found my “in” with my daughter. It only took several years. She was walking and talking by then.
A friend reminded me that Rose has a developmental delay. “It’s a delay,” she said, “development will come, just later.” I was, at the same time, comforted and frustrated by these words. Between you and me, I was mostly frustrated.
A few years ago, I got a fabulous job opportunity at Willamette University, across the country from our established resources and connections. What’s a responsible parent to do? Of course I accepted the job, and you would have too! Before leaving Maryland, I asked one of my trusted resources if she knew about any theater programs in Salem. Almost immediately she said, “CET.”
We moved to Salem in August 2012 and I left a voice message for Robert Salberg in the spring. Robert called me back and told me all about CET. He spent more time on that call than I felt comfortable taking from him, but his passion for CET was evident and his can-do attitude with regard to disability was clear.But I was still reluctant to put our daughter out there among “typical” kids. So I waited.
In early 2015 my husband saw a notice about open registration for a “theatre camp” and thought it might be of interest for Rose. Of course it was CET. I admitted awareness of the program and agreed to consider it and took her over to Howard Street School for walk-in registration to see how we felt about it.
Though retaining my skepticism about everyone’s insistence that she would “fit right in at CET,” I filled out an application to enroll her in the performance track, which already had a waitlist. In April we learned that spots had opened and Rose was enrolled in CET. I was still skeptical. In May, she chose classes including Puppet Making and Musical Theatre. CET started in June and I met my daughter. I truly met my daughter.
Up to that point our daily script went something like this:
Me: “How was your day?”
Me: “What did you do?”
Rose: “I don’t remember.”
I picked her up after her first day of CET. She jumped in the back seat of my car and she wouldn’t have shut up if I had begged her to (not that I would have…):
“Mom, next year at CET I’m gonnna…Today in puppet making, we…And in Musical Theatre, we…” We pulled in our driveway and I don’t think I had said anything more than, “really?” and “tell me more about that.” I met my daughter that day.
And I cried.
Rose was in the Library show, Charlotte’s Web, in 2015. And she nailed every one of her few lines. Trust me, I was on the edge of my seat at every performance and she nailed them. Her little sister, Andi, on my lap, turned to me and said, “Mom, can I do CET next year?” “Yes, baby, you can.”
Our family is in. We’re all in for CET. Now on the first day of every season, I hear, “Mom, next year at CET, I’m gonna…” from both of my daughters, and I have to say, “please, let me get through these five weeks” because they are such a whirlwind, and I just can’t think a year in the future but…they love CET that much!
Rose has been included in CET in ways that aren’t practical or possible in “regular” school during the year. She attends CET without aides or instructional supports. She doesn’t use her locker because she doesn’t have the fine motor skills or attention to manage it, but she fits in and she is comfortable. And, perhaps most important, Rose is welcomed by her teen-aged peers. For five weeks Rose is ‘typical.” She’s just a CET kid. They’re quirky and talented. And she is one of them.
Rose is special.
But so are all the kids who want and need to be a part of CET.
I know that this letter is longer than most, but I want you to know how important you are to the success of CET.
Your financial support of this amazing program makes it possible for CET to provide an incredible and life-changing five weeks happen. You make it possible for kids like my Rose to find a place where they can belong. During this season of giving, I hope that you will find a way to make a generous contribution to this remarkable program.
We’re all in.
I invite you to be all in with us for CET too.
Laura Jacobs Anderson
Proud Mom of Rose and Andi