December 1, 2017 by whirlyjoy
“My friend sent a photo of the cast list!” Mimi shouted up from the breakfast table. I spun around in my bedroom, where I was in the middle of pulling on my stockings, and scrambled down the stairs. “Are you in?” I panted as I skidded to a stop next to her. I stood there with half of a pair of stockings stretched tightly up to one hip, the other leg dangling loosely against my knee. My insides were similarly off-kilter with the tension of not knowing which way I’d need to leap in the next moments – to congratulations or consolation.
“It’s not about you, Mom!” I can hear Mimi saying about the preceding paragraph. If she got into her high school’s annual musical, she’d say it with a sort of exasperated humor she’s perfected that makes me feel my age quite distinctly. If she didn’t, she’d say it in anger and disgust. Both responses are appropriate to the extent that of course this role, this performance, this ambition, this passion for a theatrical existence are indeed all her own.
My therapist leads me to understand that I seem to want to fix everything for everybody. And that it’s not actually necessary to be poised and waiting for the next disaster to strike my loved ones at any moment.
I don’t believe her, but I try to behave as if I do because it seems like a really excellent fantasy.
My headlong rush down the stairs this morning to protect Mimi from the bad news she might have just received was a clear fail in this effort. Also, I forgot to stop and contemplate the impossibility of what I was attempting. I mean, of course I could be there next to her as she worked through her hurt, blah blah blah. But that wimpy stuff’s not what our mama bear selves are about, when we hurtle towards our threatened cubs. We’re out to launch ourselves between them and whatever vicious casting director is about to hack away at their lives and dreams.
Aida’s reminders that “it’s not about you, Mom,” are much more subtle and sometimes I don’t notice them. Luckily Mimi is there to remind me of how very little my concerns matter to either of my sovereign and self-actualizing teenage girls. “Does Aida look like she cares?” Mimi will say when I fret over a jacket that might be too warm, or mismatched socks. Aida adds her two cents by pulling her jacket tighter and yanking my arm towards the front door and her trip to the park with the big saucer swings.
“You mean,” I said to my therapist that day, “maybe I don’t need to fix everything?”
“What I mean is, maybe not everything needs fixing,” she replied, making my brain explode a little.
If that’s true, then it means the role that’s mine is simply to take awe and delight in watching these gorgeous daughters grow into… well, just grow. Soar, and fall. Leap into action and burrow into safety. Cry when things are too wonderful to bear, laugh when they’re too awful to contemplate. Take flight into their lives, and knock me out of our nest to my own freedom while they’re at it. It seems like a really excellent fantasy. I think I might try it.
Post scriptum: When Mimi reviewed this post, her only comment was that she wants readers to know that she got the role. “But sweetheart, the story isn’t about you…”