Mama is back in the act. Acting. Playing a Mama.
I am doing "Our Town" in Louisville, Kentucky. A theater where I first worked a little over ten years ago. Before I was a Mama.
Bean has known for months that I was going to do this play. We talked about it and did our best to set up a framework in which she could feel comfortable and included in my leaving. I will be back for Christmas. She will come down and see the play. And then I will come home.
Still, Doc Hubby had to peel her, screaming, off of me yesterday when I left for the airport.
"But do you really absolutely have to go do the play?"
"I do. They are counting on me."
"Do you absolutely have to go today?"
"I do. I'll be back in just a week for Christmas, okay?"
"It is NOT OKAY!!!"
Fifteen years ago I played the daughter in this play. I loved doing this play. I loved the soda fountain scene most of all. I also loved playing the third act but I struggled to find the emotional depths. The playwright says that Emily sobs when she goes back home and sees her Mama "so young." I never sobbed.
Today I couldn't get through reading the last act without tearing up embarrassingly. And of course, Mrs. Webb can't cry. She's just making biscuits or oatmeal or bacon or whatever Emily's favorite breakfast is. Because that's Mama's job.
I just spent about 45 minutes trying to figure out what Mrs. Webb's birthday present to Emily in the third act would have been. Emily turned 12 in 1899. I have no memory of what I imagined it was when I was playing Emily. Something Mrs. Webb had to send all the way to Boston for. Something they didn't even have in Concord...the capitol of New Hampshire. What in the world can this be? I have some ideas. They all sound vaguely silly.
I left to come here yesterday...the 15th of December. All of Bean's Christmas presents are ordered and 90% of them are wrapped. That's what Mamas do, isn't it? Find the special presents. Wrap them. Send to Boston if you need to.
Do I really absolutely have to come and do this play? As I was leaving yesterday I just wanted to say "Nope. Mistake. Wrong. Just kidding. Take the suitcases back inside I don't have to go." I mean, how can I leave her? She's six! Our little family is so precious and it's a big world out there. And after all, it's Christmas.
But I remember that when the offer came to do this play, my heart leapt and I thought "yes!" I think I will be a better Mama if I come to Kentucky for two months to do this play. I told her that. I told her that Mama is a storyteller and I need to come and tell this story. But I can in no way explain my decision to Bean in a way that will satisfy her.
So as much as it is a gift to me, to come here and do this play, I really believe it is a gift to her too. I had to send all the way to Kentucky for it. I had to go away and pretend to be someone else's Mama for a while. And pretend to be part of a different family. And it's because of my actual daughter, I think, that I could now go back and do the Third Act as Emily. And begin to glimpse what Emily can see from beyond the grave. After all I'm fifteen years closer to it.
But it's too late. I can't go back and be Emily now. I'm the Mama.
I think that's kind of what this play's about.