It has been a very long time since I updated this blog. I plan to begin again.
This morning for some reason I clicked on YouTube to hear a song from A Chorus Line. It is the song “At the Ballet;” I remember it even though it has been well over 35 years since I’ve heard it. Much of what I remember from A Chorus Line is from being a kid, watching TV when my “local” stations were from New York. We always saw the commercials for the new Broadway plays. Much of what I know about any Broadway show from the mid-seventies, in fact, is from the commercials. From A Chorus Line I remember the lines, “Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball, YEAH!” and “Orchestra and balcony, what they want is what you see…” They must have played those clips in the commercial.
But “At the Ballet” I remember not from the commercials but from listening to the album at my cousin’s house. Even back then I thought that was a striking song about one’s life not being nearly as beautiful as what was experienced on stage through dance. The line I heard today that resonated was “Everything was beautiful at the ballet, raise your arms and someone’s always there.”
It made me remember a particular way of being that has long since left me. I remember when i could reach my hand out with full confidence that one of my four children would grab hold of it. I didn’t even have to look for them, I just had to put my hand out and they’d find it. When Liam (our fourth) was born, our oldest, Paddy, was still only three. We did not have any twins or even Irish twins, but our children were very close in age. And when they were young, they were all very young.
The diapers, the toddler’s clothes, the high chairs, the bassinets, and the gates protecting them from the stairs were all such a big part of our lives for what seemed forever. Now they are gone. I remember thinking long ago that the early years of parenting were physically exhausting, but I had guessed back then that the later years would be emotionally exhausting, and I think that has turned out to be somewhat the case.
And, I can’t be fully confident anymore that when i put my hand out someone will take it.
Parenting can be particularly challenging for someone like me, someone who tends toward the nostalgic. Loss is significant and it stays with me for what I am sure is much, much longer than it stays with anyone else. I guess I am realizing, bit by bit, that as wonderful as it is to see your children become almost-adult human beings, it can also be an experience of loss. When I told Liam yesterday, when he wanted to go to the gym but didn’t have his gym clothes, that he could use my locker because I had some clean clothes that he could wear, it struck me that this is the boy who told his grandmother at breakfast, “OOPS! I forgot to change out of my night times!” (“night times” would be his training underpants). That he can wear my clothes is both an experience of awe that we have made it this far and an experience of loss, for those days can never return. They won’t run to greet me at the door, they won’t laugh at my stupid jokes (I get plenty of groans), they won’t snuggle between me and Felicia in bed anymore.
Marriage has had its own ebbs and flows throughout our joint parenting experience. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, and the challenge is to keep reminding ourselves and each other of the strengths. The rest of the world, at times, seems intent on reminding us of our weaknesses. Our job should be to focus on the other.
Liam was two years old when Good Shepherd Montessori School was launched. Our involvement in this journey has been an experience of joy and loss in a way that seems very similar to parenting. And while he is getting ready to finish at GSMS, and Paddy is looking at colleges, and Clare is going to France, and Jack is taller than my father was (a man who seemed 8 feet tall to me), I am reminded that it’s harder for me to just put my hand out now and expect someone to hold it. Harder, but not yet impossible. Because Maeve, age 7, still expects to hold my hand.
I am eager to see who my children become, and I am excited to see how GSMS will continue to impact our community. The way the song resonated with me today was about putting my hand out for another hand, but it was also about looking at something on stage and believing it to be more beautiful than what I have. It is easy to do that, but my work is to see how beautiful this life really is. Whether the hand shows up in mine at a cross walk or is refused on a college campus.
Oh, and here’s the song I listened to this morning. And that cover is the cover of the album I remember putting on the stereo at my cousin’s house. Yes, everything is beautiful at the ballet, but it pales in comparison to what is happening right here in front of me.