Me and not me

Yesterday afternoon and evening I was surrounded by people. A lot of creative colleagues; actors, writers, directors, costumers, stage managers, other patches from the same tapestry. And those who appreciate us, who came out, even in the truly pouring rain and unseasonable cold, to see everyone’s weird on glorious display.

The green room at Pandemonium is always a very special place to be. There are people getting elaborate, beautiful, colorful makeup painted onto their bodies, transforming into sparkly, multi-color butterflies before our eyes. The comedic and weird – aliens, those with oversize papier mache masks, clowns and costumes of every variety. A cadre of dancers performing regimented warm-ups barked by their master, their bodies an army of discipline and grace on display. There is no age, no class, no ethnicity; we are all one pulsing, thriving being. Bobby pins and hair elastics are shared among strangers. Curling irons and oh, will someone please button this corset? Hugs and kisses and shared excitement about what’s going to happen. It’s electric and our own crazy anthill.

The show went on, despite the rain, and was great fun. I found more of my tribe afterwards, where we crammed in a few bites of cold pasta and some leftover veg still out on the food trays, then hurried down to the party, where everyone was packed in like hot sardines, music pulsing and belly dancers gyrating beautifully on stage.

I found some more of my tribe and we caught up at what is the actors’ water cooler – a place away from the crowd (in this case, the lobby), talking about how our shows went, and then about life; where our kids were, our spouses or significant others, how we had to leave early because of a babysitter or whatever. We’re all getting older together, and it’s pretty cool to watch. I know I’m older, and feeling it. My feet ached, my back hurt, and I didn’t want to drive home drunk. I left fairly early for that party. I knew I’d need the sleep as the tornado called my son arrived at 10 this morning for his week with me.

Despite the rest and an entire pot of coffee throughout the day, he still exhausted me. I love what I see of my son that I recognize as “me.” I joke a lot about pushing him to become a dentist, but nothing could seem further from his area of interest. He is interested in the funny, the weird, that which excites and delights you, and always MORE and LOUDER and pushing the envelope. He doesn’t care how loud he is or who looks at him, which is even more me than I ever was at his age. I was constantly being shushed, stopped, told to sit down, calm down, stop being so hyper. I let him run around a festival with abandon. He tried all the free samples.I let him get his face painted in the blue tiger pattern he begged for – he looked like someone from CATS; pretty cool. We watched a karate show. I cannot in any way identify with a desire to do karate, but for the agility, strength and balance perspective as a former dancer. But he watched in awe as they broke boards with their feet and the guys punched through sheets of cement. He doesn’t want to LEARN karate, he just wants to pretend to do it. That’s my kid, right there; he wants to learn to pretend to do things really well, instead of actually training and learning how to do them.

We ate a lot of junk food and had a good time, then I went grocery shopping for way too long while he played in the store’s daycare center. Grocery shopping is a challenge, a nightmare almost, but also enjoyable. It’s like getting smacked on the ass but liking it a little bit. Growing up very poor and somewhat “food insecure” as they now call it, little in life makes me feel more safe and happy than a fridge full of food, but then you check out and oy, the total. Between coupons, rebates and a shopping app I’m using for money back, it’s almost like playing a complicated video game to grocery shop. I’m there scanning bar codes and checking stuff off my list that’s coded with different symbols, it’s like hieroglyphics. It’s on the verge of too Big Brother for me, what with punching in my deli order and then showing up at the deli and finding it waiting for me in a bag with my number on it. But they let you have coffee, or wine or beer, and there’s a cup holder on the cart – this will only hurt a little.

There were so many errands after the store but I could not get him to agree to go. I get it. Errands are boring. I unpacked the groceries and then we walked to the playground in our complex. We both tested our balance (a contest I still win every time in every presentation, though I know the day will come when I will lose, for good), our agility (fairly evenly matched) and strength. Ounce for ounce, he is way stronger than I am now or ever was – even when I only weighed 40 pounds like he does, I could never do those overhead bars, or swing and swing and swing like a monkey, the way that he does. I marvel at him, and see how he is not like me. He climbs higher in the trees than I ever could. At bedtime, I struggle with the words in the books he wants me to read, which are full of weird, made-up names and concepts about Chima and Chi, or about Hulk and Thor and the details of their enemies; shit that I just don’t find interesting at all. There’s no story, just fighting and guys beating the crap out of each other with swords, fighter planes, or other weapons. And then I see that he is not me, he is something different and special in his own right.

Older parenting is sometimes great, because of the wisdom and perspective. But that last hour before bed, it’s hard. The Muppets saved us tonight, and we both laughed a lot and D acted out part of a scene repeatedly, and claimed he was going to reenact it at school lunch tomorrow. It consists of him standing up in mock disgust after he opens his lunch and shrieking, “WHAT? NO CHEESE?” He did it like 10 times until he had perfected doing it with a straight face before cracking up so bad he gave himself hiccups. God, he’s going to be a terrible dentist.

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