I have been living a double life. For a week, I have left my children in the care of others in order to stab bobby pins through curls of hair, one after another, creating an auburn hat of monkey bread, and sucking the configuration up into a tight black wig cap. After this, a lady comes into my dressing room and drapes a flesh-colored cord from the back of my head to my forehead, cinching it in place with a bobby pin, anchoring the part dangling above my eyebrows with surgical tape. I hear the girls next door. They’re discussing the benefits of various false eyelash designs. A man’s voice outside the door is clear and loud — he’s warming up — and another man asks if a review has come out. Someone yells a profanity; something else is funny. All I hear clearly is the crooning of Michael Bublé because my dressing room-mate has him on Pandora, and it’s soothing to just brush my eyebrows in silence. We face our mirrors: attentive students, dutiful employees.
The lady comes back, this time with a stark-black wig that she pulls over my head. I’m locked in now. Ready for places.
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After the show is over, I throw my sweaty undergarments and mic band into the laundry bin and head home. Leftover Mac N’ Cheese is still warm in the pot from when my mother-in-law made it, and Drew shows me a puzzle he has completed on the floor. Thing Two, soggy blanket hanging from her mouth like a dead rabbit, comes to sit in my lap as if I’ve only been gone 20 minutes. But I’ve been gone all morning, performing for nameless, faceless schoolkids who laugh and clap and want my autograph — but none who want to sit in my lap.
Drew does not want to come to the show. I’ve been talking up “Annie Jr.” for a month now and the best he can say is, “MAYBE ON WEDNESDAY,” which is code for, “If you take me to Casa Mañana, even to the parking lot, I will cry and moan until the theater is but a silver speck in the rear view.” I’ve written before about Drew’s difficulty with the theater, how the past two Christmas shows at Casa (while well done and thoroughly entertaining for the vast majority of four-year-olds) were like visions of the apocalypse to him. I managed to review “Santa Claus: The Musical” only after Gordon took Drew to the lobby for Act II and promised him one of the glowing blue pom-poms for sale at the merchandise table.
There are many things Drew and I share — a love for Elmo, scrambled eggs — but the theater belongs only to me, and this makes me sad. It also makes me a little anxious. It is difficult enough to leave Drew every morning and on weekend nights, but it is even harder when I suspect I’m doing something he disapproves of. Does he think I am intentionally scaring children? That I am paid to terrorize little boys? At very least, I’m an enemy sympathizer.
I suspect most working mothers feel proud telling their children about their jobs. The vast majority of women are not strippers or Dalmatian snatchers, and even if a woman’s job is difficult to explain or so boring that she would fall asleep mid-resume, I think most women rest well at night knowing their child trusts they are the same loving, good woman at work as they are leaning over bowls of macaroni and bubbly bathtubs.
I’m not sure Drew really trusts me. There’s a part of mommy that’s foreign or scary, that’s too loud for the car, that’s too garish up close. I hate this, that I might be too much for Drew in some way, that we might miss each other. That he will go so far as to look for my opposite to marry — a soft-spoken accountant doing missions work in a country where cheese is difficult to come by. She and Drew — her name will be “Ann” — will have little accountant children who do not enjoy listening to music but who adore sports, “sports” like hockey and cross-country. They will like to go camping while speaking in mild undertones. They will not complain about anything, even mosquitoes.
Christmas will be awkward. I will be the “colorful” mother in law who wears satin bell-sleeved robes and too much makeup. They, Drew and Ann, and their children, Drew Jr. and Ann Jr., will pluck the green chile peppers out of their egg casserole and have a dog who is beige, and pleasant. His name will be AnnDrew.
It will be awful.
I guess the best I can hope for now is to focus on what we have in common. Too bad Elmo is allergic to scrambled eggs.
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