Some Things Will Never End
by Susan Dugan*
[as it appeared in the February 2011 Newsletter]
This essay was excerpted from her book of personal forgiveness essays, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, being published by O-Books March 25, 2011.
My teenage daughter had been chosen to sing a duet in her high school’s end-of-the-year POPS concert. In his fifteen years in the role, the choirmaster had only chosen freshman for solos once before. It made my daughter feel special. I am sorry to say it made me feel pretty damn special, too.
As a very young girl I had written plays and coerced my brothers, neighborhood children, and even an aging Labrador Retriever into performing for the adults in our basement and backyard. By the time I got to high school, however, stage fright prevented me from ever auditioning for a leading role again. I resigned myself to lead singer and dancer in the chorus, all the while pining away for the spotlight I once relished. Now my karma had come full circle—enabling my daughter to make the debut my descent into shyness had preempted.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those neurotic Stage Mom’s consumed with winning a spot for their weary spawn on American Idol. I had never pushed my daughter into anything–on the outside, anyway. In my parallel ego universe, however, I sat at a Singer sewing machine stitching imaginary costumes, my daughter’s musical theatre career spinning bobbin-like out in my twisted little wrong mind.
She rehearsed at school over the next couple weeks while continuing to play her starting position on the JV soccer team through the trials and tribulations of what passes for spring in Colorado. A sky lobbing handfuls of slush one minute, unleashing a faucet of pollen the next. At one of her games the wind tossed the goal into the air like a candy wrapper. Girls from both teams stormed the field to the rescue, wrestling it back into place like Circus acrobats. The losing season forged on.
My daughter had inherited my severe tree allergies among other special qualities. Her eyes had taken on the haggard look of our neighbor’s hound. Just days before her performance, I took her to her voice lesson. Ten minutes in her voice failed and her teacher called it off. With all these voice metaphors floating around you’d think it might have registered on me which voice I had been listening to. But seduced by our promise of specialness, I had already sided with the voice for fear.
For the next three days I obeyed the ego’s instructions like a marionette, flailing and hovering over my daughter, pumping her with tea and honey, vitamins, Chinese herbal concoctions, and salt water gargles as she continued to rehearse, play ball, and struggle to complete final school projects. Two days before the first night of two consecutive evening performances, the choirmaster yanked her from soccer practice to attend the dress rehearsal. The soccer team had a game scheduled the next day three hours before the performance. That night, my exhausted, nerve-wracked teenager climbed into bed with me, something she had not done in years. I tossed and turned in sympathy with her seeming plight.
That Thursday dawned with temperatures in the 20s. Schizophrenic moisture—alternating from snow to rain to sleet and back again—doused fields, lawns, and blossom-swollen trees. I fretted over my daughter as she left that morning. Even though I do not believe in interfering at school I emailed the choirmaster and asked him to yank her again should the league go through with the game despite the weather. He politely explained that only performances trumped games and since she had time to do both his hands were tied.
The big night came. I sat in the audience agonizing through the entire first act, the program balled in my sweaty palm. I could barely breathe as she stepped on to the stage and began performing “Some Things Are Meant To Be” from the musical Little Women. The song recounts the end of the relationship between Jo and her younger sister Beth, who is dying.
Some things are meant to be,
the clouds moving fast and free.
The sun on a silver sea.
A sky that’s bright and blue.
And some things will never end.
The thrill of our magic ride.
The love that I feel inside for you.
Talk about special. I could see my daughter was nervous. She did not reach for the notes during crescendos as she normally would. Still, her voice did not crack once. She did not forget her lines or burst into tears, or, thankfully, scan the audience for my anxious eyes. She got through it. It was just a performance, after all. Nothing inside her had changed because her mouth went dry and her leg shook and her voice met her only seventy-five percent of the way. Her magnificence—the truth in her that had temporarily slipped my puny mind—remained intact.
I sat humbled, watching at last with my right mind, the truth in us both. Our specialness faded along with the spotlight on my daughter and her friend as their lovely young voices grew still. Concluding a song about the body’s thrill ride and inevitable demise. Unrelated or fettered by the real love we are.
Some things will never end.
The next morning I congratulated her again, longing to say something to make up for the seeming error of my ways.
“I’m sorry if I’ve been kind of an idiot lately,” I began.
She set her glass of juice down on the counter. Here comes Psycho Mom again, I could almost hear her say.
“It’s just that I’ve never had a fifteen-year-old daughter before, you know?”
When she was little she would crawl into my lap, sandwich my face in her small hands.
“Remember when I was the Mama, and you were the baby?” she would say, sending shivers down my spine. She still gave me shivers.
She smiled. “Fifteen-and-a half,” she said.
*Susan Dugan is a writer, student, and teacher of A Course in Miracles. This essay was excerpted from her book of personal forgiveness essays, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, being published by O-Books March 25, 2011. She chronicles her journey applying the Course’sextraordinary forgiveness in an ordinary life at www.foraysinforgiveness.com.