Would You Rather: The Stage Manager’s Version

Would You Rather...?

A. Walk with a two year old through a mile-long corn maze on a seventy-eight degree afternoon exactly at nap time


B. Eat a leather shoe?

Would You Rather...?

A. Spend an afternoon watching beginner figure skaters perform skittering tricks to grainy recordings of instrumental Broadway show tunes, High School Musical karaoke songs, and umpteen different versions of The Nutcracker


B. Sunbathe with your eyelids duct-taped open?

Would You Rather...?

A. Listen to your eight year old wax poetic for hours on end on the joy that is Tamagotchi


B. Sneeze staples?


Some days are hard.

Or rather, in my world of privilege, abundant food and water, indoor plumbing, and luxurious time to spare, some days are "hard".

Some days, it takes a great effort of sustained reverse imagination to stay in the moment, any moment, and enjoy the luxury of accurately and genuinely seeing these small people I made, see them and soak them in like honey on a sponge cake, soak them in like the dessert that they are and not, instead, some bowlful of dry lentils.

Some days, I need to play a reverse version of the Our Town Stage Manager and lead myself forward in time to another version of myself - an older, less agile, more pained version; or a version of myself anxious and waiting in a hospital room; or a version of myself alone in a kitchen pouring, finally, an uninterrupted cup of tea and wondering what my grown babies are doing, where they are in their own heads, where they will lay those lovely heads that night, and not being sure where or in what room or place they will meet the dawn....

I need to lead myself forward in time to a moment of unwanted, unanswered solitude and then back again, back to this uneventful day, this unimportant day, this day of ever watching clocks while rushing and prodding children through one moment into the next:

Now breakfast, now the arguments about cleaning up dishes and pulling combs through tangled hair, now out the door to school and homework left on the counter, now wondering how much longer I need to play on the floor in order to call myself "good mother", now nap time, now the afternoon crush of low sugar and out the door to soccergrymnasticsballetskatingscouts, now the dinnertime squabbles, now the gauntlet before bedtime, now one ear awake all night hoping to not hear them before dawn -
But, just for a moment now we're all together.

Just for a moment we're happy.

Let's look at one another.

Some days, I’m in the middle of a hot, dry corn field with a toddler who is at once cranky, at once pointing toward the high golden stalks bending over him like gods' heads, now screaming on the ground, now kicking a stray kernel through the dust, now rushing ahead of me singing a song never heard before, never to be heard again, the words stringing out and disappearing like seconds, minutes, now turning a corner, a glimpse of Spiderman sneaker, a corner of blue coat sleeve, a few fine strands of strawberry-blond hair, later clipped and pasted on a page….

Some day in the quickly closing-in future, I'll give anything and everything to be in that hot, dry cornfield again.

Some day, I'll give anything for my biggest immediate problem to be wrestling a tired toddler into my arms - even the beating fists, even the tears - just to feel the beautiful weight of him in my arms, just to know where he will be laying his lovely head that evening, free from my own anxieties, free from the not being able to remember how it felt to be able to run and catch up with him so easily.

Mama, I'm here.

I'm grown up.

I love you all, everything.

I can't look at everything hard enough.

Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me.

This lanky girl who walks into the kitchen on colt's legs, a mane of chestnut hair, a book under her arm, a book filled with words she may never show me, a book filled with a version of herself that she’s inventing while I’m not looking. My authoress who will, I know, parse me and poem me until I become an unrecognizable Picasso work reinvented by my own invention.

This golden daughter in the middle who becomes a mystery to me each day even as she smiles out loud; she pokes fun and teases me and refuses to be a simple known quantity easily assembled from bits and pieces of a mother plus a father. She equals nothing I have ever known before and this is a joke she loves repeating, her heart-sleeve emotions a punch line that gets me every time.

Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?

Every, every minute?

We take photos.

We make videos.

We write.

We blog.

We document and describe what is happening, what was, what we think we’ll never forget but press into scrapbooks just in case - this endless hour of breastfeeding, this first week of autumn, this secret flashlight and shape of finger shadow on tent wall, this sound of giggling from the next room, this frosty morning, this small hand on my arm….

And still so many moments slip through like water in a cupped palm.

So many days are here and gone with the waiting for each day to end.

I am not perfect.

I am not a poet or a saint or - Shakespeare's aphorism notwithstanding - even a character in a play with or without a Stage Manager at hand to prompt me into climactic monologue of perfect awareness.

I’m just a mom and a blogger and someone who can occasionally trick herself into answering "A" for every "Would You Rather...?" when really, it should take no trick at all.

When really, 1:34 PM on a glorious Tuesday in warm October in the middle of a tall corn field with a red-haired little boy shouting

"Now! And now! And now!"

should be enough.


Julie Marsh said...

I wish I didn't have to be tricked, but I still do now and then.

Thanks for the beautiful reminder of how fast it goes, how much peace is among the chaos.

Marmite Breath said...

What an absolutely gorgeous post! You're mad with talent, J. Mad with it.
It spoke to me.

Anonymous said...

Lovely, prescient, and so true. My girls are 12 and 16, in the process of becoming... themselves. And I DO still remember the weight of one of my hip and the lullabies in the rocker and the this-has-to-be-long-enough floor time-- but it seems like it passed in a blur of busyness and a haze of exhaustion. Trying to consciously slow down and savor where we are now. Mixed results-- am still tired!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful! What a great reminder to savour every moment we have.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I really loved and embraced virtually every moment of the time you're describing. I miss it a bit when I read posts like this and everything LaskiGal writes.

You are ready to move on when it is time to though. You have other things you enjoy doing. And you know that you'll get to do it again someday with grandkids.

There is a reason life has its different seasons.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I was struck first by those rathers, they are big at my house, and shamefully I am going to pull out 'sneeze staples' at dinner.

Great stuff.

But this post was so breathtaking.

Thank you.

Karen said...

You should have a warning above this post: do not read in the presence of others who might wonder why tears are streaming down your face. I need this reminder, too. Thank you.

jess said...

Oh, this was beautiful.

MereCat said...

That was exquisite. An absolutely breathtaking post. And a scary post. Because of that, I will try to be in the present moment all day today.

Anissa Mayhew said...

Did you write this for me? Because I think deep down you did. You may THINK you wrote it for you and yours, but I can feel this one to the tips of my soul.

I needed to read this.

love love love

ewe are here said...

Wonderful post.

And somedays 'A' can be hard...

Mr Farty said...

No contest really, Little Miss Farty is 25 today and those memories fade terribly fast. Enjoy it while you can.

God, you write so beautifully!

Grandma Soup said...

God has given us a second chance-- you will be a grandmother some day and you will love those grandchildren more than you thought possible and you will want their parents ( your chidren) to treat them perfectly and to forgive all their little whinning etc., but they will be just as tired as you are. Thank you for the reminder we all need. And for your eloquence.

Katie said...

I have been thinking about this the last few days. I'm counting down the months until I can stop breastfeeding and still call myself "good mother" and at the same time I know once it's gone, I'd trade anything just to have one moment back. Beautiful post. :)

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous post. I have been a fan of "Our Town" since high school. Now, seeing its message woven into my day-to-day reality with a 3.5 year old is overwhelming and beautiful. Thank you.

PAPATV said...

great post, great writing, great new find!
Glad to have discovered you.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Your words hit me right in the heart and gut, after a grueling day at Disney with three kids---it was too tiring, too hot, too crowded and nothing was working out quite right. But, you are right---there were glittering moments that were lovely---those are the memories I need to share with the kids as we grow older. I want them to know that I remember the lovely.

Such a beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

You have summed up my present, past, and future. Absolutely beautiful and to be read on the days when "B" seems the more forgiving answer.
Thank you for this, Jozet.

Kyddryn said...

I often have my camera with me, intent on capturing some of the nowness of the Evil Genus and his antics...but sometimes I make the conscious decision to leave the camera behind and participate in the moment instead of observing.

There are always words to paint the picture.

I try to be aware of all of it - his softness, the tickle of his hair, freckles sprinkled across his nose, the eyes that are his and my grandfather's, his giggle, his passion and anger. In a few years, he will stem the tide, damn the flow, turn inward and become aware of his privacy, hide his currents from me.

I hoard these minutes for future days of want, grains of rice for life's pot when the cupboard is bare, the ingredients fled to their own places and beings.

Lovely post.

Shade and Sweetwater,

CaraBee said...

Some days. Oh, some days it is so hard to live in the moment. When the baby is crying and my pants don't fit and the cat just puked on the rug and all I want is a few quiet minutes to myself. Someday, I will finally have lost the weight and the cat will be gone and the baby will be independent enough to not need my every minute. But these are precious moments. They are here for a flash and then gone. Every day, I work to remember that and savor them.

Thank you for the beautiful and moving post!

Gone said...

ABsolutely beautiful, thought provoking, reflective post that's gonna have me me coming back here again looking for more.

Helena said...

Hi, thanks for stopping by my blog!

I don't have children so I can't really relate but I think I'd choose to eat a leather shoe

Anonymous said...

Jozet...I can't even tell you how much I truly needed this post this particular weekend (home alone with 8 kids while husband is away on a solo trip - damn him!). I'm taking a deep breath and realizing how truly blessed I am...and I'm savoring, oh yes I am.

Mrs. G. said...

Thanks for sharing your stunning little patch of Grover's Corners.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

You have some mad writing skillz.

steenky bee said...

OMG! I peeped my pants when I saw that you left a comment on my site today. You're famous! I'm in awe of you sister. OMG, I feel like I should go shave my legs or something. Maybe I should dress up fancy to even be posting this over here. BTW: I would do anything to NOT hear a HSM3 ever again. Unfortunately, I live in the very state and city where those masterpieces were filmed, so everywhere I turn, it's WILDCATS!

Rima said...

Thank you for this. Tomorrow I will try to pick "A" every time. It should be a no brainer, I know.

Angela said...

The hardest moments are sometimes the ones most important.

Anonymous said...

Emil anonymously said: Yes, yes. And you are right that when they are grown and gone you will still worry about, think about and pray for them in the same way but different. And when you sit in a cathedral and see your first born in white tie and tails and hear him making breathtaking music with 23 other singers it will expand your heart in just that same way.

Variations On A Theme said...

I think about these issues all the time. Being a mom can be so exhausting, but I often think about when they're grown and how I'll miss these times.

An elderly man saw me in a store with Olivia when she was about two. She was being a 2-year-old, and I was exasperated, of course. This man very sweetly and patiently and kindly put his arm and my shoulder and said, "Just enjoy her, Hon; she'll be grown before you know it."

What a gift he gave me. I think about that all the time.

Your post is also a gift. Thank you.

Unknown said...

This was exactly the right blog post for me to read on this very tired and emotional wrung-out day. And ... exactly the wrong one, too, sort of. But I thank you very much for the catalyst I needed to finally release the tears that have been inside me all weekend while walking and meeting survivors and everything else. You have a gift for capturing and relaying what so many of us feel every day. Thank you for the gift of catharsis, Josette! I really needed it!

zipbagofbones said...

Now look what you've done. You up and made me ache. ACHE for pete's sake. O, the ache of aching achiness. Lovely post. Going to find the Bengay now.

Amy said...

I swear I think "forward" like that every day, straining to memorize it all and struggling to "live in it" through some act of forward-remembering that forces me to be grateful I'm in the "now."

You said it so perfectly!

And sneezing staples made me laugh!

Jon said...

Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Language Languaging the way Language loves to Langauge.

Krista said...

Lovely, sweet and poignant.

We all need to step back and "carpe diem" sometimes with our kids and family like chaos 'cause it really is too easy to want to throw up our hands (or cry, or swear) and choose option B instead of A.

Beautiful, thanks.

doubleagentgirl said...

Sigh. How wonderfully true.
It's so easy to get lost in the everyday, each day turning into the next like one giant run-on sentence. Then suddenly, a plot twist turns your face to that other side of the coin and you miss each moment you could have grasped.

I miss their babyhood.

cIII said...

I love wading Knee-Deep in the Chaos/Swamp.

All the while whistling that "Zipety-Doo-Da" song.

Save for those little Cartoon Birds. They piss me off.

Heather said...

Can I be you? Because this is awesome.

Anonymous said...

Your son is adorable! What a lovely post. We agree with your statement that mothers aren't perfect and that we need to try to stop and enjoy them in this moment before they're grown and gone. Very eloquently put.

Pamela said...

I just knew when you invoked the Holy Name of Our Town I would be in tears. And I am.

MommyTime said...

Jozet, this is achingly beautiful.

When I read the first part, I was ready to leave a comment full of exclamation points because that is, of course, the game we also played during long afternoons of sewing in the costume shop, and long nights of of working at whatever kind of theater work we were working at, and OMG!!! Jozet is a theater girl just like me!

But then, of course, I forgot all that in the poignant reminder that so eloquently expressed what I have been feeling these last few days -- savor them, their deliciousness and their moments of bitterness, for too soon they will be grown, and the things I will ache for again will be the curve of the neck arched over a cutting project, the sticky fingers volunteering a hug, the so-many things that I take for granted.

You inspire my soul to patience.

That is saying much.

Momma Trish said...

That's absolutely beautiful. What a lovely reminder for us all to take pleasure in every moment of every day. Even when it's sometimes "hard". ;)

Cute picture, btw. What a sweetheart!

Anonymous said...

I always remind myself to think, as I am fishing Hot Wheels cars out from under my bed and everywhere else in the house that they don't "belong," someday I will give anything to be doing this. Someday I will wish for little cars and little boy clutter.

dharmamama said...

Gorgeous writing. And - not to be a downer, but: I have two friends who lost their children much, much too young. Knowing them, experiencing their loss makes choosing "A" not such a trick, but essential. Now, and now, and now, really is, truly, all we have. I know that because of my friends' losses, and I've created a life to live it as often as possible. I'm afraid if it was a trick, it would slip by me too much.

Sarahviz said...

Came here from Queen of Shake Shake.

Thanks for the brilliant reminder that I need to choose A without hesitation (even whilst in the throes of chaos in my Trenches).

Anonymous said...

thank you. I am in the midst of the chaos and noise of mothering a small increasingly independent being and some days are so. painfully. hard. thank you for a moment of stillness, of making me weep with the joy for the memories that are slipping by like so many amber beads.

Blog Ping