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BIg Girl Panties

“Put your big girl panties on and deal with it” is my new favorite phrase, everybody. I had heard it before, but recently saw it on some little beverage napkins at my in-laws’ house and thought, yes, I really…should.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt such a powerful urge to mope around, but in the wake of the end of The Music Man—and all the countless hours of rehearsal, agonizing, soaking of feet, crying in terror and crying in triumph—I feel like I’ve been rudely awakened. Or that I’m a kid on Christmas morning after all the presents are unwrapped, sitting in a sea of paper and ribbons and smiling faces, and everybody’s just looking at each other going, “so now what do we do?” Do we eat? Do we…clean up and watch football? How’s about we just mope and eat some Twix bars.

But it seems silly to mope when it was such a great success. (Which is why I need to don the proverbial panties…)

I’m guesstimating that a good 100,000 man hours were put into that show, if you count 124 cast members x 50 or so rehearsals x 3 hours a pop x countless hours spent at home and in the car singing, plus the hours people spent constructing all the sets, costumes, lighting, production of the programs, tickets, web site. I bet Michelangelo didn’t spend that much time in the Sistine Chapel, and look at the staying power of his body of work. Live theater is one of the few art forms that dissipates into the air just as soon as it happens. It’s like a firework, or like my friend Merritt says, a snowflake.

But the only thing Drew has noticed this week is that Mommy actually cooked him dinner tonight, played outside with him afterwards, gave him a bath, taped his ripped book back together, stacked blocks with him, brushed his teeth, read him stories and tucked him into bed. I haven’t had the privilege of doing this in a good little while. These are humble tasks if you compare them to making fast changes in the wings into taffeta gowns before singing to a packed house of 1,500. These are tedious tasks if you compare them to making sure your smile is in tact for autograph signing at the end of a show. These are inconsequential tasks if you compare them to entertaining someone about to die of cancer (one man who came), or a woman who hadn’t been out of her house for 10 years until that evening and had tears in her eyes, or kids from a rough neighborhood who came that only wanted to talk about theater and dancing with me at the end. These are small tasks. Or are they?

Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk and potato-peeler, penned the following, “We should not weary of doing little things for the love of God who looks not at the grandeur of these actions but rather at the love with which they are performed.”  As mothers, we naturally have a lot of “little things” to do as the days string along like pearls. Sometimes I relish the “little things” because they comfort me somehow—the methodical, rhythmical pace of folding laundry; the satisfaction of an organized pantry—and the “little things” can almost be a welcome distraction from the “big things” of motherhood, like enforcing respect or backing up your spouse even when you disagree. But sometimes the “little things” tease and taunt.

Especially today, when magic and glory is fading all around me like a sunset. I had to clean mud off of Drew’s sandals not once but twice today. And, I had to weed through his toy basket to find the shapes that fit inside his little plastic airplane, only to discover about 20 other random shapes that belonged to other plastic toys in other toy baskets throughout the house. (Wasn’t I just taking my bow 72 hours ago?)

As mothers, we don’t get curtain calls. We are invited backstage where we must relate to, care for and love unconditionally a little person who doesn’t understand or appreciate the grace being extended to them. But in this way, we’re most like God himself, who “condescended” to us (to use C.S. Lewis’ terminology) when Jesus entered time and space. And if I can identify with that beautiful condescension, then no amount of recognition or praise or applause would be worth the trade.