Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There Is No "I" In Motherhood

It would seem that six and a half hours away from husband and kids on a Sunday in April to spend time with friends—friends who did not have children--was a gift handed to me directly from the bosom of God.

Here is what we did: We waited one hour to have brunch at a restaurant where it’s worth it to wait an hour to have brunch. (I had Mahi Mahi fish tacos and the kind of fountain Diet Coke that makes you believe that there actually is a God who gives gifts from his bosom.) Then, we attended an opera.

An opera?

An opera. One of my friends had directed it. It was The Marriage of Figaro. This was the second opera I had seen in my life, and being there broke the promise I’d made to myself after seeing the first opera: never go to an opera again. Ever.

Don’t get me wrong. I love musical theater. I force my kids to listen to the show tunes channel on our digital cable, which really means I force them to listen to me sing every single song. At full belt. Occasionally with choreography. My husband believes that, no matter the situation, I can pull a show tune out of my bum that’s entirely apropos.

But this was opera. A very well-done opera. But still: All singing. All Italian. All three-and-a-half hours.

As I drove home (after two voicemails from Thad saying, “Where in the hell are you? I’m about to throw these kids through a wall!”) I wondered what I would do if one of my girls decided her one dream in life was to become an opera singer. I pictured Thad and I, from here to eternity, sitting in too-warm theaters on Sunday afternoons, listening to our baby, in her Viking hat, vibrato-ing her little heart out. This, I think, is what people mean when they say, “Love stinks.”

Back when I was in fifth grade, I joined the swim team. I remember seeing my parents sitting way high up in the bleachers at the swim meet, cheering for me during the 72.3 seconds of the four-hour event, when I backstroked the one length in my relay. I quit swim team the following year, though I can’t quite remember why. I do remember, soon after, my mother driving me to auditions for The Sound of Music.

Only much later, when I was in my early 30s, did my mother tell me the truth: “I hated when you were on swim team. We couldn’t even see you. And it was so hot. And long. I thought I would die.” Did she have anything to do with the end of my swimming career?

“Oh,” she said. “The theater was so much more fun…for you.”

She came to every show.

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