ESSAY ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FEBRUARY 3, 2010
We were hoping for a snow day, but we got a delayed opening instead. The phone rang at 5:20AM, but I was already awake. I always am. The recorded message gave the quasi-good, but not-good-enough, news that there would be a 2 hour delay due to the snow.
Today was the day I had the privilege of chaperoning a trip for Eva's 7th grade "house" of 100 children. Shall I reiterate that? Let me just stop for a moment and let that information sink in: one hundred 12- & 13-year-olds, in the snow, in Manhattan.
I looked forward to it so much, and I am grateful to have been able to go. I had some crazy experiences, however, and the day left me feeling differently than I had anticipated.
We were supposed to go to the South Street Seaport to see the BODIES exhibit; but, we couldn't, because of our delayed arrival into Manhattan. [The bodies are cadavers that have been preserved in polymer. It allows observers to see inside the human body at its wonders, fostering understanding and respect for this most amazing of God's creations.]
The bus dropped us off at Columbus Circle, at the southwest corner of Central Park. We walked through Central Park, in the snow, across town to the east side. Mr. Gill pointed out landmarks and statues along the way. We saw the horse-drawn carriages that await the tourists, and we looked sadly at the Plaza Hotel - how desperately it needs a face-lift! From there, we walked down Fifth Avenue past Bergdorf Goodman, Bvlgari, Sax Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick's cathedral, etc., on the way to Rockefeller Center. We watched the ice skaters for a while and snapped pictures.
[My pants kept (practically) falling off of me, and I had no belt. The only pants that fit me anymore are the ones I wore yesterday, so I was a mess - pants dragging the ground, sloshing in the snow. And, I ruined my favorite boots! Darn it!]
We hit Times Square for lunch and fed 100 hungry teens on barbecued chicken, ribs, french fries, coleslaw, cornbread, and ice cream sandwiches. That was quite an undertaking, but it flowed smoothly. The most notable event that occurred during lunch was the adults around me watching me struggle with cutting the meat from the ribs with a steak knife. (Sloppy, bone-sucking, finger-licking dining and ME? Uh, not so much.)
As I was leaving the Powder Room, an obviously confused, elderly gentleman entered the women's lounge area. I slowly and quietly approached him. (My father has Alzheimer's, so I know a bit about approaching people with dementia.) I put my arm around him to direct him back to the lobby. He was compliant, and walked easily with me. Just as we reached the door, he, um, grabbed, um, well, he grabbed me. I wriggled away and moved his hand, and so he used his other hand to find one of my other girly parts a little higher up. I returned him to his son, who was beyond embarrassed. I briefly explained that I understood, because of my own father's illness, and the son apologized profusely. He also told me I was "stunning" - haven't been called that for a while - and asked for my number, but that's a different story. ha ha (WAIT? Do you think the dad was his "wing man?" ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Of course, I'm joking.)
We then walked over to the Imperial Theatre to see the 2 pm matinee of the Broadway show, "Billy Elliot." (Yes, that's the correct spelling - I know, right? Threw me off a bit, too.)
It is the story of a boy who wants to be a dancer, yet his father wants him to be a boxer. His mother is dead, but she "visits" him periodically to encourage him, and to help him to "be himself."
Billy Elliot shares an old letter with his dance instructor that his mother wrote to him before she died. After the reading, the dance teacher responds with, "...she must have been a special woman." Billy replies, "...no, she was just me mum."
I don't think I've been hit quite so powerfully with a line from a show. "She was just me mum." I have thought about that since, and I've decided that, of all things, I want to be remembered as a "mum."
Of course, I want (and have) a satisfying career; I run my own business as well; I have opportunities to express my talents as I perform at various venues. My songs have been played on the radio. I write, and I've been published. I absolutely desire the warmth and joy that the love of a devoted man can bring. I want friends, I want close relationships with my family. I want good books, fine music, and gourmet dinners. I want all of these things. But, if I had to choose one, just ONE selfish, earthly thing that I wanted out of life on this telestial planet, it would be this: to be honored by my children as a good mother.
I want them to love themselves, and be kind to themselves. I want them to be comfortable to speak up, loud and proud, at injustices heaped upon them or upon others. I want them to be equally as comfortable being meek and tender as they are being bold. I pray that they will accept their failures and successes as an essential part of life, and move on, leaving the past in the past.
I want them to view me as a fallible, imperfect, human woman who has issues; a woman who succeeds and fails; a woman who laughs and cries; a woman who loves so passionately that it's sometimes too much; but, also, a woman who shines as an example to them of goodness, justice, and mercy.
I hope I teach them how to offer others empathy and understanding. I hope I have shown them how to stand by a loved one while she grieves. I strive to teach them, by example, to demand respect for themselves and others; and, conversely, how to properly and thoroughly take responsibility for their own actions when they are wrong. I have harped on them about "proper" apologies since they were little, because I think there are few social skills more important than the healing power of a proper apology.
I want them to know I loved them even before they were conceived. I want them to feel my absolutely UNCONDITIONAL love for them. I want them to feel handsome/beautiful, because they have been taught to appreciate themselves as they are, regardless of what others might think. I want them to know that they are smart, capable people with good ideas and unique, powerful insights.
In short, I want to be a perfect mother.
Guess what? I'm not. I'm SO not. All I can do about my parenting failures is own them, apologize for them, and do WHATEVER IT TAKES FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES to correct them. I can only practice what I preach and pray that the grace of God will make up for wherever I have failed.
Billy Elliot and his mother share three scenes in this Broadway show. The last time she appears, he knows it is the last time. He tells her goodbye, and she knows her "work is done" with him. How she longs to be able to hold him, but she can't. She just wants to be able to touch her baby - that's all she wants! The audience wants her to be able to leave her realm and be "on earth" for just a moment, so she can hug her boy one more time. It is heart rending.
So, what does this mean to me?
I've decided that I want to leave a legacy. I, too, will die one day; and, when I do, I hope I won't care if folks thought I was a good singer, a gifted teacher, a great cook, or a beautiful woman. I hope I strive each day to be a wonderful mother.
Life has shown me that a husband comes, a husband goes, that the love of a new man may or may not be on the horizon; but, my babies are FOREVER.
Please, dear God, please, give me everything I need. Please close the gap on things I lack. Please let me be part of the SOLUTION, not the PROBLEM. Please help me to live worthy enough that, when I do pass away, we will have such a special bond between each of us that they will WANT to honor my memory. Maybe one of them will say, "she was just me mum."
I believe that's what I learned today in New York City.