I spent my childhood and young adulthood consumed with musicals. Luckily for me, my crush on the theater plus years of voice lessons culminated in many superb opportunities to play amazing roles.
In my twenties, I gladly left my first love, the stage, for the workaday/live-in boyfriend night life. I tried on different professional hats, and eventually landed my dream role at age 29: new mom.
Still, I left a piece of myself on that musical theater stage. It swells in my chest and chokes me with feeling every time I sit in a Broadway audience; I get chilled, teary. For years I’d involuntarily move my mouth along with the performers. Thankfully my awkward lip-lynching eventually subsided, making me slightly less self-conscious as an audience member, despite all my happy sobbing.
A friend once asked me why I don’t sing any longer. He said if God had blessed him with a voice he’d never stop.
In my car I often listen to student radio, which typically features alt rock, hip hop, reggae, oldies–anything college-y and decidedly not musical theater. After a recent walk in the woods with a struggling friend, I turned the ignition over, and Joanna Gleason (the original Baker’s Wife from Steven Sondheim’s Into The Woods) jolted me upright in my seat as she sang her familiar refrain over the student radio airwaves:
Just a moment,
One peculiar passing moment…
Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always “or”?
Is it never “and”?
That’s what woods are for:
For those moments in the woods…
I gasped. I sang. I wept–for longing, ambivalence, gratitude and wisdom. I felt every lyric; the Baker’s Wife (no name of her own) straddling midlife’s temptations and delusions, my struggling friend and my own tug-of-war between our younger selves and future potential selves throwing us from finding center here and now.
By the time the song ended, I smiled at the idea of myself now decidedly of Baker’s Wife or Witch age, rather than young Cinderella or Little Red (parts I prized in my young life). I realized how much I now identify with and find more interesting the moms of the story.
Later that same afternoon I opened up a new library book… to (I kid you not) this exact inscription:
Yes, I believe in signs.
Into The Woods appears at transition moments in my life. I sang “No One is Alone” at my high school graduation. Before the birth of LTYM I begged the UW to let me audition for their production of Into The Woods, even though I was no longer a student. They didn’t let me (and they shouldn’t have let me).
This story doesn’t end with me starring in any community production of Into The Woods or anything else. Truthfully, a weeknight rehearsal schedule fits nowhere in my life right now. My kids get that time with me for these last few years that they need and want it. I don’t want to join my temple choir, form a MOMCAPELLA! group, or become a Karaoke queen either. I intend to keep standing firmly in the center stage spotlight as leading lady of Familia Imig.
But?? (whispers) what I did do for the first time in over twenty years?? I booked some time with an accompanist and an empty hall. I can hardly wait.
Sometimes “and” does exist if you look for it.
This post is part of #30BrighterDays; a thing I made up to brighten each day of November