Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I majored in theatre in college. In doing so, I carried out a tradition that started with my maternal grandmother. Acting is in my genes. My great-grandfather performed skits in his basement in front of a camera. Footage that has been miraculously preserved for over 60 years. But the person from whom I really caught the bug was my mom. She was my acting coach in high school. I vividly remember us sitting outside of the Gilmore Theatre Complex in the spring of 1997 practicing my audition monologue for WMU. I got in on my first audition. I put that dream aside after college to focus on more practical things, like getting a full time job and figuring out who I was. In the summer of 2005 I auditioned for the first time in over 3 years. The play: Taming of the Shrew. The place: Celery Flats. That role led me to Trevor and we all know that story by now.

Tonight I have just put Jack to bed. The only sound I hear is the occasional dog bark from outside and the sound of 2 competing ticking clocks. Trevor is at Celery Flats, the most beloved place I know directing Shakespeare in the park. I sit in a quiet house and I don't quite know how to feel about it.  It's been over 2 years since I performed onstage. There are many reasons why, but first and foremost, I don't know of the show that would be special enough to take me away from Jack at night. But there is an exhilaration that comes with performing that is hard to find anywhere else. It doesn't compare to parenting. That would be like saying, I really love my sister, but I also love long walks along the beach. The love you have for your sister and the beach don't compete with each other, they comprise two very unique and distinct aspects of who you are. But while you can walk along the beach with your sister, it's very hard to rehearse for a show with a toddler.

I have written at length about the wonder of being a mom. It's the best thing I've done and has brought me more fulfillment than 10,000 plays ever could. But here's the thing about parenting. The thing that no one really wants to talk about for fear that they would appear ungrateful for the miracle of their children. The sacrifices that parenting demands can make you feel like parts of you are being stripped away and sometimes you don't quite know who's left. How do you think the "mom jean" phenomenon emerged? No one who remembered who she was in college would wear those things!!

So, for now I say goodbye to theatre and it is such sweet sorrow. The wonderful thing about theatre is that it will always be there. I know this time with Jack won't. It's an easy decision in my head, but in my heart I do miss that part of me who was an actress- who felt vivid and alive in a way that I don't always feel anymore.

In the summer of 2010, pregnant with Jack, I went to Celery Flats and sat in the audience for the very first time. After 5 straight years of performing, I was now playing the role of 3rd row center. The play: Romeo and Juliet. I watched with rapture as the lines tripped off the tongues of the actors, while swords clanked together, while fireflies danced around the stage above our heads. Shakespeare feels like a brother to me, a legendary brother who died before I was born, who left me this amazing legacy. Watching his work performed in that space is like being home. I was only 3 months pregnant. I rubbed the little bump and hoped that somehow the words were washing over him so that he'll love Shakespeare someday too.

So much changes with the arrival of a baby. Bodies change, schedules change, priorities change. Cabinets get safety locks on them. Toys, books, and gates start appearing throughout your entire house.  Your home is taken over by a 2 foot tall ball of curiosity and mischief.

Right now there are crumbs all over my dining room floor, tiny hand prints are embedded in the dust on the bookshelves (you will know how much time I spend with Jack by the amount of dust in the living room), an exersaucer and a pack & play (two things I never even knew existed 2 years ago) clutter up my kitchen and bedroom.

Right now Trevor is getting a reminder of who we were.

I am constantly reminded of who I am.

It's hard. No doubt about it, these choices are hard.

So for tonight, God is my director and I am cast in the role of "Mom". I read my lines with enthusiasm. I give the animals in "Where's Spot" special and unique voices. I gently sway around the room with a sleepy Jack while I sing lullabies and make up my own choreography.

For tonight, I am the star of this show.

Audience: Jack
The play: My Sweet Sweet Life

This play will run for quite some time and the audience may grow. There is no program, no critic, no intermission, no lights, no special effects, no costumes, NO MOM JEANS.

Just me and my baby and a wishful prayer to keep those parts of me that blossomed in the years before becoming a mom sacred and alive, even if it means reading each book as if Shakespeare wrote it himself.

Spot, Spot, wherefore art thou lost?
Emerge from thy basket and greet the young Jack
Who most passionately awaits your return.


Jack at Celery Flats Amphitheatre, October 2011


  1. Beautifully written, Nancy. As I've said before, I echo your sentiment exactly. The stage will be there for us when we are ready for it once again... :)

    1. Thank you Dawn! I'm so grateful to have so many friends know exactly how difficult the call to motherhood is when you fall in love with theatre. For the moms I know who can integrate both aspects, I really admire them. It's pretty difficult with our schedule right now to make that happen, but you're right, we shall make a triumphant return someday or at least get a kick out of watching Jackson and Jack take the stage in a Civic youth production!! I'm thinking Oliver! :)

  2. All of us at Farmers Alley are honored that your last show before motherhood was with us. We need to get you a copy of it so you can show Jack his Mom making out with a strange Mexican man and his dad with an axe buried in his head. :-)

    All the best,