Q and I are just back from a big adventure and I have now managed to convince her that we could have another adventure this afternoon, if she took a short break from life and allowed her mother to have a cup of tea without getting indigestion from chasing after her.
I am now sipping on tea and licking the coconut cherry cake I made yesterday off my fingers.
Today’s adventure involved a bus (or ‘buh’ in Q speak) into the city where we looked at jewellery to buy my mum, discussed with the lovely Optus sales person about how much cheaper TPG is, (to which she agreed but said there was nothing she could do to compete), bought some coffee refills for my brother and sister-in-law’s fancy coffee machine (the sales people were very nice and gave me a free cup and didn’t seem to mind that Q littered homemade spiced zucchini and carrot muffin all over their immaculate floor) and then we beat a path through all the people with real jobs to David Jones.
I love me a bit of DJ’s. It’s old-school grace and I would quite like to pop down to their food hall everyday to purchase items for that night’s gourmet dinner.
Instead, we headed over to the handbag section to listen to the pianist play standards on the Steinway.
I love the piano player. I’ve always loved it, and now Q does too. She sits, entranced if it’s a slow melody watching their fingers slide over the keys, or bops up and down if the tempo gets a little sprightly.
There are a few players under their employ, and today was an elegant, white haired gent who was as enamoured with Q as she was with him. (I think when she offered him a bit of her soggy muffin the attraction was sealed).
So the man and I got to chatting and before I quite knew how it happened (although this is often the case with me and strangers), I was telling him stories from B.Q. About my life in New York and the singing and dancing I did in different parts of America.
Soon enough we were talking about Sondheim and he accompanied us with faultless renditions of ‘Not While I’m Around’ and ‘Send In The Clowns.’
Which reminded me of what I consider to be a perfect piece of acting. Judi Dench singing ‘Send In The Clowns.’
If you’ve got a couple of minutes, here’s the link I found on youtube.
Truly, it’s a remarkable piece of theatre.
I first saw that clip in my favourite class, a subject called Film Lab that I attended once a week. We’d all file into a dark studio and watch live recordings of the greatest theatre stars Broadway has ever seen. Chita Rivera, Dame Judi Dench, Nathan Lane, Ann Reinking, Bob Fosse, Julie Andrews, Glenn Close, Tommy Tune…I would sit there with tears running silently down my face and think; This is it. This is what I want to do. I want to be like Carol Channing and still performing the title role in ‘Hello Dolly’ at the tender age of 72.
Eventually we said goodbye to the piano man and headed to Hyde Park so Q could terrorise the Ibis and pigeons, try to climb into the fountain and master walking down the stairs by herself.
But while I was watching and encouraging my little girl’s efforts and determination, parts of my heart and mind were back on that life I had in NYC.
I loved that life. I loved my friends (all of whom are still in my life today), I loved the travel, the adventures, the nomadic lack of responsibility. I loved the rehearsal, I loved the costumes, I loved mastering a skill well enough to get applauded by a stranger who was watching you perform it in a darkened theatre.
And I miss that life. Surely I do.
I lived 8 years in a heightened sense of reality. Like all expats do I expect. There’s something not quite ‘real’ about what you’re doing, if you have in the back of your head that you’re not going to stay there forever. There’s a part of you that is always pretending almost, because you know in the end, that you’re coming back home.
And now I am back home and I’m a wife and a mother. And where once my day was filled with a couple of dance classes, a vocal coaching, a run in central park, an audition or two, and a glass of wine at a late night bar, my day is now filled with the monotony of a stay at home mum.
Except it’s not monotonous.
Sure, some of it is, but some of it was in New York too. The trudging through the snow at midnight in mid February, having left your gloves on the subway. The boring jobs I had so I could pay for dance classes in between gigs. The homesickness, the Ketchup soup dinners and the constant disappointments when the producers eventually picked the other girl.
It’s easy to forget the years I spent thinking I had food poisoning when really it was a bad case of anxiety.
While I was there I met an American, I married him in New York, I was in possession of a coveted green card. I could have stayed if I wanted to.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t want to.
I desperately wanted to be a mama. And I was determined to have those babies with my family by my side.
Sure, the feeling you get when a packed house is applauding you, is not a bad feeling at all, but it fades the second it stops and you don’t know any of those people, so how significant can that applause be anyway?
But watching my girl master those stairs today, or the grin she gives my brothers when she sees them, or the dance she does for my mum, or how still she sits when my dad reads her a book, that feeling doesn’t fade.
In fact, it just gets stronger. Because it’s real and tangible.
My acting teachers were always trying to get us to be ‘real in a set of imaginary circumstances’ and that was the life I was leading for my 20’s both on and off the stage.
Now I’m being real in a real set of circumstances and I wouldn’t trade it for all the Tonys in New York City.
This is the stuff of life.