For most of high school, and a good deal of junior high, my free time was spent in the theatre wing, reading lines, hammering on sets and soaking up the behind the scenes atmosphere so heavy when you are 14 years old. My contributions were generally backstage, sorting out costumes and arranging set plans, but occasionally I was called to the stage, most frequently appearing as the tottering old woman in whatever production was headlining that semester. I became a master at graying my straight brown hair, tying it into a bun and creating, with brown and white pencils, the lines that now decorate my face permanently. With the rest of the cast I gathered just before curtain time, holding hands in a circle, passing love with one squeeze to the next and handing out The Robe, a gift to the crew member deemed most vital to that performance. The minutes before curtain were, for me, the whole of why I was in theatre at all, the anticipation and excitement worth all the long nights and hard work.
When I graduated from college with no clear idea of what I wanted to do, I found a job waiting tables. Friendly but forgetful, I quickly acclimated to the topsy turvy schedule and grew to love my year of living without direction. When I worked in the evening, we arrived around 3:30, an hour and a half before the dinner service began. Once the assigned prep work was done, salads in the cooler, napkins rolled with silverware, we all sat down to a quick meal of whatever was getting old in the walk-in, and a pep talk from the chef on duty that night. The camaraderie of the assembled crew was contagious, knowing that for this to be a successful night we all had to work together. When the first table was sat the show began. My mother, who was not at all pleased with my educated career choice, softened a bit when I likened this time to my high school theatre days, and the excitement of curtain time.
Each year we host a holiday party, a crowded affair, with too many people crammed into our small apartment. I spend weeks planning and preparing, organizing and shopping. I'm up early on party day, cooking, while Jack gathers anything without an assigned space to be put in our bedroom, the designated dump closet. Mary and Kate now pitch in, responsible for the playroom, soon to be completely destroyed by the army of children scheduled to arrive. With an hour left before the first guest arrives, I'm usually showered but not dressed, fumbling around the kitchen in my old bathrobe and slippers, wet hair piled onto the top of my head. The four of us work together on the final preparations: snipping chives on crostini, lighting red candles, hiding puzzles from three year old guests, and chilling beer and juice boxes on the back porch. At 30 minutes I'm sent away, to lose The Robe and hide those pesky lines now appearing daily on my forehead. Minutes before the first buzzer I appear, ready to face the evening, my fellow cast and crew by my side. We share our own love, knowing we have all worked hard to make this evening a success. Even now, almost thirty years later, the show goes on.