I took a theatre class in college.
Actually, I took many theatre classes in college. I majored in theatre.
I attended a private, liberal arts university well known for its prestigious business school. The sprawling 350 acres of lush green and historic red brick buildings echoed the footsteps of Tim Hightower, Douglas S. Freeman, and Leland D. Melvin, not to mention 38 professional athletes, coaches, and managers, 13 US Representatives and Senators, Governors, Mayors, CEOs, Pulitzer Prize winners, and a celeb or two (think, Lil Dicky and the lead singer of the Lumineers). Out of the 2600 or so 4-year universities in the nation, it ranks #32.
(Oh, and if you are still wondering who Leland D. Melvin is… well, this picture might help)
And in light of all the signs pointing toward the value of a prestigious business degree, I followed the scent of sawdust and masochism and headed straight for the theatre building.
If you know anything about theatre, we rarely ever do it for the prestige.We have 8 am classes, work through our lunch break, and paint sets until late into the night. We work Saturdays and Sundays and every other day for one show. Four months of work for five two hour performances. And. It’s magical.
Anyway, back to that one theatre class I took.
We were studying Strasberg. Sense memory. The idea that you can recreate the physical conditions of an experience using just your mind.
We were told to go home and enjoy our favorite drink in our favorite cup.
I have a favorite sea-foam green coffee mug. From Ikea. It’s lightweight. Smooth. Cracked at the top. As I sat with my steaming mug of coconut chai tea, thinking only about “the way the mug fit in my hands,” “the scent and taste of the drink,” “the weight of mug and the feel of the steam on my face,” (yeah, I was totally into this exercise, by the way) my thumb eased over the crack in the lip of the mug comfortably.
I knew it was there. I knew it would always be there.
When I got back to class and pretended to hold that sea-foam green mug in my hands, I closed my eyes and I didn’t seek the smell of the coconut chai, or the feel of the thick steam on my face. I pushed my thumb out toward the lights and hooked it into the invisible crack.
It’s been over two years since I graduated from college. It’s been just as long since I took a theatre class or stood on a stage.
What has not change, however, is nightly cuddling.
Since my youngest son was born, we cuddle every night before bed. “5 minute cuddle,” we call it. We talk about our day: “What was your best?” “What was your worst?” Sometimes we fall asleep talking. Sometimes we don’t talk at all.
The other night, we lie there, Big Spoon, Little Spoon. Silent. I was giving in to the warmth and the dark when suddenly I realized Little Spoon was crying.
“Jay?” I gasped.
He turned his chubby little body to face me, our noses touching at the tips.
“I miss your mom,” he sobbed, and turned back over with effort.
I didn’t move. Or breathe. For several second. The pain hit instantly and I was paralyzed by the suddenness of my grief. Our grief.
He sobbed for several minutes while I rubbed his back. I sobbed silently behind him. After a while, he whispered desperately at the wall, “Why did she choose to leave me?” He sobbed some more.
I pulled him closer and started thinking about the words he had used. “Why did she CHOOSE to leave me?”
Jayden is five.
At five years old, many of the choices he makes are shrugged off as, “he doesn’t know any better.” “He’s only five.” Yet, it was clear now that that was not true. He understood choice. He understood the possibility of empathy. He understood the concept of abandonment. Grandma had chosen to die. Her choice.
I realized I had not responded and “I’m sorry” fell out of my mouth onto his hair. I must have said it four or five times before his body went slack in my arms. His breathing slowed and he snuggled in closer to my chest.
It was over. The sobbing had passed and still nothing had changed. She was still gone.
Just when I thought he was completely asleep, Jayden shushed me softly and replied, “I’m sorry too, mommy. My heart is just a little bit cracked.”
I pulled him in as close as I could and hooked my thumbs into the invisible cracks. A memory I will never forget.