Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Costumes

How did you do it, she asked. How did you ever get dinner on the table with a baby?
I don't remember, she answered back. I know I did but I don't remember.

******
In the midst of an overhaul of closets in a bedroom that the great and magnificent Oz of an air conditioner has deemed less worthy of the cool air that the rest of the house enjoys, I found my sweaty self sitting on the floor in the middle of a disaster I created.

I was having a bit of a problem finding my mojo for this bad idea.

On a pile at a time I told myself. One foot in front of the other and one ridiculous pile at a time, right? Isn't that how all hard things start? I began to sort. Yearbooks from this kid, posters from that kid, a pile to donate, a pile for the garbage, the biggest pile reserved for I Have No Idea. It was a slow process and after many hours it might have looked to an observer that I had accomplished nothing, but a plan was starting to take hold. The closet got painted, the chaos go its marching orders via black, plastic bags and the end of the day and my ambitious plan was coming together.

In the midst of this mayhem there was an actual plastic tub - the premiere organizational tool that has its own aisles in Target and the preferred method of storage for a million Martha Stewart wannabees. Where did this beauty come from? Who thought to put anything in here protected from the dust that layered everything else? I opened it up and the inside contents were reserved for one thing - the dance costumes that the third and last inhabitant of that room had stored. One by one I pulled them out, held them up, sighed, smiled, felt my eyes fill with tears. Each costume carried it own memory - tap, ballet, hip hop, solos, group dances. I remembered every dance that each costume was for. At the bottom of the tub were the head pieces that went along with the tutus, the sparkling, wow-them-from-the-stage earrings, the box of stage makeup that had long dried up, dozens of hair clips and bobby pins.

Years of memories carefully stored in a single plastic tub.

Like her siblings and their interests, I remembered everything about these first solo flights of bravery. Sitting on the bleachers for a track meet - the last being the state competition that the girls 4x400 qualified for, on the sidelines of cross-country meets at the crack of dawn- the ending being the senior banquet where the one who hated public speaking the most eloquently thanked everyone who helped him across every finish line, or the final recital where years of training ended on a stage with a bow and a wipe of tears. I remembered them. I remembered me watching them.

As a witness to these events over the years, my posture was always the same. Leaning forward, feet propped up, elbows on knees, fingertips resting on my lips, the same mantra on repeat over and over. C'mon kiddo, you got this. C'mon kiddo, you got this. C'mon kiddo.... I always knew that mantra was for the benefit of my jangling nerves and not theirs.

In a closet full of the accumulated messes of three kids who had all taken their turn passing through the biggest bedroom in the house before heading off on their own, the best had saved itself for last. I wiped out the bottom of the tub and folded each costume and headpiece and put them back inside. I ran my hands over the sides of the lid to make sure it was snapped on tight so any lingering dreams that preferred to remain with the tulle and the sequins wouldn't fly away.

*****

How did you do it, she asked. How did you ever get dinner on the table with a baby?
I don't remember, she answered back. I know I did but I don't remember. Ask me about the good stuff. I remember all of that.