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November 10, 2011

Are Kids Your Ultimate or Fall-Back Dream? (Why Both Are Wrong)


This is mere speculation, but I think many moms hide so far within their own motherhood that they can’t see which way is up. They can’t feel the mossy floor of the cave, or the dripping ceiling — they hang suspended in an identity so thick and sticky they don’t even remember things like grass and sunlight.

Maybe this is why I’ve been taking voice lessons?

At the end of a 10-year meanderation through the wild worlds of college, first jobs, second jobs, third jobs, husband (first and only), and first baby, I was spit out on the other side and realized I hadn’t been performing at all the whole time. I grew up on THE STAGE but left it behind, like a friend who you remember and think, “I wonder whatever happened to old so-and-so?”

I’ve been slowly re-entering the performance sphere, as I’ve written about. Last October I began voice lessons. My teacher happens to be an opera professor and graduate of Juilliard, and also just happens to live four houses down from me. He uses phrases like, “You must enervate the inhalation musculature!” but still I learn a ton and have improved drastically. He’s been encouraging me to audition for shows around town, and finally I worked up my courage for an audition at Casa Manana this weekend, for their two shows this spring.

Knowing precisely zero about the types the director was looking to cast, I went in with the simple goal to practice auditioning, and to make a good impression. The room was like being in the interior of opaque Tupperware. The director sat against the back (beige) wall; the accompanist peered from behind the (brown) upright piano. A (neon yellow) file folder lay on the (beige) carpet, indicating where I was to stand. The only color in the room, besides the file folder, would be, (apparently) whatever color I would bring in my performance. And it was a performance, even though I felt miles away from THE STAGE.

The weirdest thing about an audition is being social. Directors/producers have no obligation whatsoever to make you feel comfortable; they sort of just…look at you; they barely manage a “hello.” You have to be the one to act like everything is perfectly normal, which is hard enough when acting breezy at a happy hour, for me, takes a Cliff bar and a prayer. But an audition? I should get an Oscar for not vomiting, and then another Oscar for not passing out into my puddle of vomit.

When I had finished my song and monologue, the director seemed to be searching for words. He was perusing my resume and asking, “What is your story?” I told him my rather pathetic record of credits from THE STAGE, a fact he could see for himself on my rather pathetic resume, but a quickening had already started in my stomach — something good was happening here. Something to my benefit.

“I’m just curious,” he said when I had finished, “Because you have a beautiful instrument and I would have expected many more credits here.”

“Yes,” added the pianist. “Beautiful.”

In theater, your voice is considered “your instrument” — I learned this from my wildly talented friend Sarah, who has an instrument so big and gorgeous she must have a pipe organ for lungs. I thanked him humbly, joking, “I would LOVE to have more credits.”

He cracked a smile. An understanding. Then it was over.

I did a happy dance to my car.

I picked out my outfit for callbacks: a purple blouse, Seven jeans, grey booties.

I lined up a babysitter.

The next day, Monday, was when callback e-mails would be sent: 12 noon. I texted everyone on my iPhone about how the director said I had a “beautiful instrument” and about how the accompanist agreed.

Then 12 noon came. Then 12:05. 12:15. 12:17, 12:18, 12:19…

Maybe the e-mail was sent to my junk folder by mistake? But besides penis enlargement and work from home, no subject lines made mention of a callback audition.

Perhaps they had said 12:30, not noon. Silly me.

12:30. 12:31, 12:32…12:52. I was fairly sure the sheet hadn’t said 1 p.m.

I put the kids down for their naps. Drew had been sent home with pink eye and Madeline had spent the week cutting four molars all at once — they needed naps, but I needed a Valium. What if I had given them the wrong e-mail address? I checked my work address, and my work junk folder. Nothing.

I felt like calling the theater, but then, like the silence after a short/swift breakup, I realized it was over. I wasn’t going to get a break. Or even a callback.

When Drew got up from his nap, I was pushing him on the swing. In one pocket I had my phone for morbid e-mail checking, and in my other pocket I had a Kleenex for wiping Drew’s runny nose and pussy eyes.

I had a moment of reflection, as I am wont to do:

Well, at least I have my kids. Who cares about some audition when I have these precious children?

Noble, right? A healthy perspective.

But then I realized: even my children will forget to e-mail me someday, refusing to give me a second chance; even my children will fail to recognize my talent, ability and worthiness; that even though they love me, my children will cast others as leading men and women in their lives after I’ve been washed up.

As hard as I’ve tried to escape the cave, motherhood draws me back in. It holds me like a prisoner of war; it goads me to give up my identity for its cause.

Our kids are not designed to be ultimate dreams, or even fallback dreams. Although we love our children, we must not lean on them.


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