Once upon a time I was a performer. I sang. I emoted. I twirled around in pretty skirts with my hair all done in curls. I remember the nights when I wasn't sure I was good enough. I recall with perfect clarity some of my more frightening auditions. But I have forgotten something . . .
I don't remember what performing feels like. In my head are the images of me in blue dresses with blond hair, in a white dress with black hair or in a pink dress that showed too much cleavage, but I can't remember what what any of it felt like. All those moments on stage, under the lights and under the spell of creation are a big bright blur. The longer I go without it, the less I can feel it.
For someone who has never experienced that singular rush of theatrical creation, it is difficult to explain the loss. Still in my mind is the memory of my final note in Brigadoon, when I played Fiona. My arms were outstretched to my unknown love, and I couldn't see the audience for the bright lights shining in my face. Then I heard the applause. At least i think there was applause. I don't remember that part. I can't hear it anymore. I can't call up the rush of acheivement.
So what brought this on? I saw my brother in a play tonight. My brother is a super talented person. I love watching him do what he does, because he does it better than anyone I have ever seen. And I realized while watching him sing and dance and emote that I was no longer a part of that world. During intermission, I began talking to the woman next to me. She knew my brother. Her daughter-in-law was the lead in this particular production. My father talked about how much my brother does. She asked if I performed. I was proud to tell her of my children and my school ventures, and in the back of my mind I felt something begin to ache. Through the rest of the show and on the trip home I couldn't put my finger on the cause. Then I recognized the pain . . . I was going through all my past roles and parts and couldn't remember what it felt like to be that other person.
You ask me what plays I've been in and I can name the character I played. I can tell you what I learned from each one. I can even tell you what I wore, what color my hair was and two people I loved in the cast. But I can no longer call up the emotional reaction that I enjoyed while on stage. It has been three years since I have performed. I haven't gone that long since I began theater. Imagine: begin at the age of ten and after the age of thirteen, I averaged three plays at a time three times a year until I became pregant with Liam.
I don't regret on any level the three years I have spent in other non-performing pursuits. I don't think to myself on some tiring nights when River is screaming and Liam won't go to bed, "What if I had not had children?" For although there is an emotional void that theater used to fill with excitement and wonder and rush and thrill, it is small in comparison to the halls of my heart which are now filled and echoing with the voices of my children.
As I lift my daughter over my head and see her nose wrinkle in laughter, as I kiss Liam's nose while he softly snores, I may miss the theater thrill but am reminded every day that the choice I made was the best choice for me. And I would not trade a single giggle, squeal or bath-time fiasco for the "what-coulda-beens" of a theatrical career.