Things That Are Clear and Move (Some Thoughts About Motherhood On The Road)


(Photo by Beatrix Berei)

"HEY MOM, Did you know that pee and ghosts are the same color?!!  They’re both clear!  Let’s think of other things that are clear and move like pee and ghosts!”  So goes the always out-loud thought process of my 3-year-old daughter, Lucy, from the backseat on this past road-trip to Chicago.  There wasn’t so much of the daydreamed, super-cool musician driving the open road with my (wickedly talented) photographer friend, Beja, letting the horizon and flat land speak to us while riding the radio wave.  Not so much.  Lucy fed our thoughts with her hysterical, always present wonderings.  Lucy and Ramona, that is --- the audio book “Ramona the Pest” played over the speakers without much pause for 16 hours on the way to Chicago and the 21-hour road trip back … in the snow.  And then there were the devastating cries for help every 10 minutes when, dear God, a marker would fall to the floor out of Lucy’s reach, the stops to pee at what seemed like every rest stop, the fast food that destroyed our digestion for most of the trip, and the stories … oh God the stories.  Lucy and I like to make up stories together, but my mouth really started to get tired.  (How come this doesn’t happen to children?)  I came up with some seriously wacky ones this time around: a Princess named Chuck who carves wood, an impatient lion in Turtleville, a frog that made friends with a lizard and a family of birds that joined the circus because they could change colors (a lot of that was Lucy).

But the topper of the trip was Lucy’s Pink Eye.  About 100 miles into our journey from Connecticut to Chicago, it was clear that we needed to find a good pediatrician to get some drops for Lucy’s obvious bout with pink eye.  After much ado, we found a doctor, got the drops and then snuck into the locker room of a random dance studio to administer the first set; ahhh, I’ll always remember that moment before I administered the drops --- life was simpler then.  Ever have to give drops to a 3-year-old with pink eye?  You haven’t lived.  I’m sure the people in the room next to us at our must-sleep hotel stop en route were concerned about their own safety.  We blatantly had to pin Lucy down; the doctor showed me how, but I still felt awful doing it.  Of course, when we got the drops in, Lucy would pop up with tears gone instantly and say, “Is it over?” and then break into the hokey-pokey on the hotel bed.

But somehow we got to Chicago.  We were all twisted up like stale pretzels, but we got there.  And I actually arrived with lyrics for my new songs completed, which was my goal.  Lucy had taken a brief nap in the car and I guess I made a miracle happen. (Oh hell, I admit, the road really did speak to me in that hour).  This is one of the beauties of motherhood I think. Whenever there is a window of opportunity to complete a task, I focus like I’m cramming for a final exam.  Which gets me thinking about ol’ time again.  What did I do with it before Luciana was born?  What did I do?  What did I think about?  Why did I ever feel tired?  I don’t think there is a mother alive who hasn’t contemplated this.  I have a good friend, Deb, who always says, “You don’t know what you know till you know it.”  I love this saying.  You just can’t force a ‘knowing’ onto someone else, including whoever I was before Luciana’s grand entrance.  I can’t stand in this moment and force the ‘me’ of the past to appreciate my time more.  So I guess I’ll just move forward, happy to have this new understanding.

But back to the trip.  After crash landing in Chicago, I moved right into setting up my daughter (I actually unpack now … so damn grown-up of me; I always pat myself on the back for it), then to rehearsal, then a fast sleep, wake to typing lyrics, promoting show, feeding child, quick brunch, Trader Joe’s for week of groceries, practicing, shopping for dress for show, shopping for promised ‘special stone’ for daughter, pick up babysitter, throw dinner in oven for daughter, shower, dress, drive to venue, sound-check, breathe, stage … breathe, stage … breathe, stage.

And, of course, I know that all of the things I’m describing could compare with many a working day in terms of the busy factor.  We’re busy.  We have busy lives.   And maybe I was technically busier in my life before Lucy was born. But I think what feels striking from this trip (and just life as it is now) is the CONTRAST and trying to stay peaceful within the fast and furious shifts between childcare and performing.  One minute you’re making up a story about a princess named chuck while wiping a 3-year-old’s behind and the next minute you’re in front of a crowd of people singing at the piano in a nice dress pretending to feel put-together.  It’s like a dream that skips from scene to scene without a blackout.

So oddly, while performing my three gigs on this last trip, a thought crossed my mind.  “I think, perhaps, I’m here to perform for the same reason that this audience may have arrived here tonight: to take a break and connect with myself and hopefully some other people. To feel myself, alive.”  I just don’t get to do my part in the dark.  (Slight bummer.)  So, like my little tangent before about time, I suppose my performances are starting to fall into a similar category.  With so much child rearing surrounding these gigs, I am forced to be even more present and conscious and focused in the spaces where I get to perform.  Not so bad, huh?  Motherhood continues to churn up the good stuff.

This time around, so much life cradled each performance that it made playing feel like I was sitting at a piano in a sandbar; Caught in the in-between with no choice but to love and embrace my own imaginings.

By the way, when it comes to thinking of things that are clear and move, beyond pee and ghosts, Lucy and I only came up with bubbles and wind … but I could stretch this to the land of metaphor and suggest that imaginings and time are clear and move, but then you may think I just sound like an obnoxious poet.

Much love and happy travels,