by Anna Arnett
Shakespeare claimed all the world to be a stage. If each of us are players, could we not assume each of us is the star in our own, private drama? Then, if we live long enough, I expect each of our personal plays will write itself out in, roughly, three acts for us to direct as well as perform in.
Act 1 - childhood dependency, where parents play front stage parts, yet we still star. The music is new, upbeat, challenging, with occasional cymbal crashes.
Act 2 - autonomy more or less shared, when our parents recede and other players enter and the stage crowds with perhaps a spouse, children, bosses, etc. The music keeps changing in tempo and tone.
Act 3 - old age dependency that often advances gradually as the stage slowly empties and the music gets soft and sweet.
Perhaps I’m now in the entr’acte between the last two stages, but the drama still holds me spellbound. Each curtain-fall brings with it tears of both joy and sorrow. Such is the glory and blessing of life.
Sometimes my curtain wavers and I’m not sure exactly when it falls. Did my first act end when I left home to work in a distant city? Or did the music simply change? I’ll have to think about that. I’m sure, however, that act one completely closed the day I married.
My second act extended longer than the first by at least sixteen years (the distance between my first and last child). But eventually it closed. Maybe the curtain started to lower the day I stood by a window at Sky Harbor and watched the plane with my youngest son on board taxi to the runway. I turned to his girl friend, saw tears in her eyes, and felt wetness on my own cheeks. I don't remember what I said, but Camille recalls it was something like, "It's okay to cry, but cheer up. A mission only lasts a couple of years, and he'll be back. However, he’ll be coming home to you, not to me." (Which he did.)
Did I feel sorry for myself? Only slightly. I cried tears of gratitude for having a strong role in his first act, and of joy in moving on to a different part. I'd already learned through experience that when my children leave home for college, missions, or wherever they go, it signals the close of a certain kind of relationship—that my role in this child’s drama would now slowly lessen in importance as far as stage setting and number of lines go, and my role in dominance must cease
I learned that as each child leaves home, the curtain lowers, signaling the end of the first act of his play, where I, as mom, had often played front center, even while plotting to bring that child forward. However, my role as mother will never end in my child’s life. I am still programmed to continue, just as my mother’s influence still echoes in mine, though I no longer belong on center stage in his drama.
I simply transfer back to my own play, where I continue my second act as director and leading lady.
The light just dawned. All my life I’ve been acting on several stages simultaneously. I entered as star in my own drama, but played a more or less major role in those of each of my parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and acquaintances. Since my firstborn arrived, I’ve been cast to play a major role in her play and each succeeding child’s play. I’ve slowly had to rewrite my part in each external script, to that of a cheerleader, or the one with the flashlight in a darkened theater, watching while teachers, spouse, children, business, church leaders, new friends, etc. enter from the sidelines and take their part in my child’s dramatic life. I’m still there, however, when I’m needed, and if my understanding is correct, I’ll keep playing these roles together for eternity.