Archive | November, 2013

Family Fun

19 Nov

When last I wrote about the impact of my community theater habit on my family, I’d just finished up work on a musical that included my husband in the cast, rendering our children parentless nights and weekends for a couple of months. Which was totally fiiine. At least that’s the way I remember it. I have really good amnesia skills, though, you can tell because I have more than one child.

Anyway, this fall I had the opportunity to work with a director friend who asked me to adapt and assistant direct Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The project intimidated me, and that made me mad at myself, so I had to do it. The director also expressed interest in seeing my nine year old for a part. My daughter had already asked if she could audition for something, and having her come to rehearsals I’d have to attend anyway would certainly be convenient. Moms and girls, learning together! Mass hysteria! Sign us up.

First, I cobbled together an adaptation, learning a tremendous amount in the process. I may not have time or money for a formal playwriting education, but I do have tolerant friends willing to let me learn on the job. Then, my daughter auditioned and was cast. When my husband came to pick her up, we asked him to jump up and do a cold read of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred. And he nailed it–ugh, he’s so annoying–so he was in. The director and I decided it would be best for me to play Ghost of Christmas Future because it’s a lot of driving just to point ominously. And gosh, the thought of our six year old home by himself with a sitter while his WHOLE FAMILY did a play together was so heartrending that, against my better judgment, I asked the director if she’d mercy-cast him in a small role, which she graciously did.

BAM mostly by accident we were all in a play. Upside? No need for babysitting. Downside? No need for babysitting.

Our A Christmas Carol opens on Friday, so right now we’re inching our way toward the tippytop of that first big hill on the rollercoaster. Reminds me of this past summer when I rode the Grizzly at King’s Dominion with my six year old. I turned to him afterwards expecting him to be limp with laughter, and instead found a pale, quivering mass literally speechless with fear. Trying to say that at this point it could really go ANY WHICH WAY, y’all. Here are a few impressions of the process so far.

1. As a couple, it’s hard to parent together, it’s hard to work together, it’s hard to work AND parent together, PLUS parent people who are working on the same project. Is all I’m going to say about that. My husband LOVES to be directed by me. Oh, look, I said something else!

2. As a parent, it’s hard to parent, it’s hard to work and parent, it’s hard to parent people who are working hard, PLUS work hard yourself on the same project. It’s kind of cool to have my kids know me in this very adult realm and different context, and it’s also kind of weird. And now they know for sure that I know a lot of swear words.

3. Needing less babysitting is nice. But I’ve still needed babysitting, and constructing and staffing a schedule that accommodates four different rehearsal calls, plus other after-school activities, plus Husband’s intense work travel schedule, plus my other work, (both paid and volunteer), has been… Well. I don’t consider organization to be a natural strength, so it’s been LIKE THAT.

4. I am a lunatic about kid dinner and kid sleep. Since the typical rehearsal schedule runs four weeknights and a weekend afternoon or evening per week, I had some major Fun Police anxiety about involving the kids in this play. It hasn’t been as bad as I feared, actually, but here’s an anecdote from Sunday’s tech rehearsal.

It’s 8:45 pm. We’re working on the finale with lights and sound. My six year old doesn’t enter when he’s supposed to. The stage left Stage Manager calls out that she can’t find him. The stage right Stage Manager replies that he’s asleep on a bench on her side. She rouses him, he finishes strong, we get in the car to go home.

Me: “Were you nodding off backstage, buddy?”
6yo: “I was just resting my eyes. I was still listening, though.”
9yo: “Pfffft, yeah RIGHT, you missed your cue!”
9yo: “Did TOO.”
6yo: “Did NOT I was AWAKE!” Etc. etc. etc.

Yep, going great.

Obviously I can’t draw conclusions about this experience before it concludes, and I’m sure I will feel many different flavors of things even then. One thing I know, though, is that this was a special and unique adventure I’m proud of our family for undertaking. And another is that I will be wearing my extra-super waterproof mascara on opening night.

It's All Happening!

It’s All Happening!

Make time. Take time. Find time.

14 Nov

Two weeks ago, a friend’s 6 year old daughter was killed in a tragic accident. That week tragic accidents happened in lots of places around the world. That week other children died and life kept on being unfair and reality kept on being brutal. And that week, this brutal tragedy unfairly happened to my friend. But it didn’t happen to ME. My grief is nothing to her grief, to her family’s grief. My grief feels selfish and self-indulgent. My grief is useless to my friend, but I offer it. I can’t help but offer it. There is no bottom to my grieving about their grief.

I might pick up some chicken for my friend. I might bring her a coffee–she might be out viewing her daughter’s body, and thus not home. I might offer my time, my money, my embrace. I might attend her daughter’s memorial and weep from the depths of myself, bow my head and rock and keen. It’s not enough.

It can even be too much. Their house is packed with food, they’re swarmed with offers of help, I’ve heard that my friend says she’s “all hugged out.” There is nothing to do, but if I could, I would do it all, we would do it all, her community would do anything, everything. The parents of our town are rocked. Whether they know the family or not, the thought of this little child, this horrible tragedy, consumes. Friends who never met the little girl confide that they still can’t stop crying, can’t sleep, feel almost foolish in how deeply it affects them.

At one point in my life the worst things I could imagine happening all involved a violation of my own body or mind. But now the worst thing I can imagine would happen to one of my children. I don’t matter to me anymore, not like this.

I’m hugging my daughter goodnight and squeezing her tightly, holding her just a fraction too long. She interprets this gesture completely correctly and says softy, “I think you are more sad about this than me, because you’re a mom, and you’re the mom’s friend. I’m just a kid. It’s different.”

My nine year old also says, walking back from the little girl’s memorial, “A family is like a knitted sweater. And they have a piece ripped away. And all the little x stitches that hold the pieces of the sweater together are unraveling now. And now they need to try to fix the sweater, to stitch it together again. I think they can do it.”

People need lessons, and sense, and logic they can grasp, so they try to graft narratives on to this tragedy, to knit it into shape. But the death is not what holds the lesson. It was wrong, terribly wrong, and it was an accident. Random, horrible in its utter ordinariness.

When I think of this little girl and her family, I think of the trips they took together, their adventures, the experiences they made the time to share. The family meals, and the soccer games, and the early morning snuggles in bed. Every moment of that time was precious and vital, and this family embodied that knowledge. My friend’s little girl was loved and prized and cherished. What more can we offer our children than the gift of our time and attention? You don’t know how long you will share your lives together, you never know. Don’t miss it.

Standing with my friend in the park, in the sparkling bright fall sunshine, looking around at the celebration for her daughter’s life–the African drum circle, the hula hooping, the dancing, the colorful leaves and soft breeze and brilliant blue sky, the kids chasing each other around the playground and shrieking with laughter–she smiled and said, “Isn’t this beautiful? Isn’t this amazing? I want to do this every year. We should do this every year.” Yes, we should. Every year.