. . . is taking a very long time.
My daughter said to me a few weeks ago during one of our nighttime chats, “Mami, tell me about you. You know everything about me and I don’t know anything about you.”
It isn’t true, of course, that she knows NOTHING about me, but I started spinning down a familiar rabbit hole.
I have never been good at answering big questions on the spot, and I habitually shut down when asked directly about myself – except for those practiced or professional lines I’ve learned to say about being a writer, an adoptive mom, a woman who loves women, a stepmom, a daughter . . . These lines, I have down pat. I’ve practiced. But more than that? No. Not without a lot of thought. Not without polish. Not without taking the time to make my answers sound “just so.”
And yet this was my daughter asking. My little girl.
“What do you want to know?” I said.
“I don’t know. Anything! Tell me a story.” Just like that: A story. Tell me a story.
A year or two ago, I made up stories especially for her. She loved it. I loved it, too. I told stories about princesses and young girls with pluck, swinging from branch to branch through the woods, always landing with both feet on the ground.
Now, she wants to hear something real. Something from my life. Something true.
These stories are harder to find.
“I had a pet rabbit, growing up. Cottontail. Did you know that? Have I told you that?”
“Boy or girl?”
“What was she like?”
I told her how Cottontail used to hop around our family room sometimes. I told her I liked to feed her carrots. I told her she had spunk, and fur the color of my hair.
I didn’t tell her how Cottontail died. Or how old I was when it happened (her age). Or how truly devastated I was at the time. These are the stories in my head clamoring for attention, but I quiet them so I can tell stories I want her to hear.
This week, my daughter looks up from the book she is reading in those few minutes before dinner and she asks me, “Mom, what’s Broadway?”
I have spent my entire life on stage. Or most of it anyway. Twenty years. What is that? Half my life? A little less? And my daughter, my very own daughter asks me, nine years into our lives together: What’s Broadway?
I have to ask myself how we’ve never covered this before.
And this is when I finally understand how much of myself – my stories, my past – I’ve shut down, boxed up, stored away in the attic.
I need to go back and unpack stories that are real. And true. And mine.
I need to bring those boxes down.
I need to share Broadway with her. We need to have ice cream, and sink into the couch, and listen to famous people sing. Together.
I need to tell her about the time we forgot our lines on stage, all of us, and stood in silence for an excruciatingly long time. I need to tell her how we did each other’s hair and make-up, and we knew who liked who and how much, and who liked who back. I need to tell her how we did our homework on tables at the back of the auditorium, while listening for our cues on stage.
This is the kind of story she needs from me now. Stories with plucky friends. Real people. Real feeling. Real life. These are the stories I need to tell.
In true stories, sometimes you crash when you’re swinging from branch to branch. And sometimes you fall, and need a friend to pick you up and dust you off so you can fly again. These are the stories she needs now.
Living stories with roots in the ground, as hard as they may be to find. These are the stories we need now.