You wanna know what my mama taught me? She taught me how to wing it. I'm not sure that it was intentional. A few examples:
My mom couldn't sew. Didn't have a crafty bone in her body. She used to laugh and say that she could barely draw a stick figure. (I loved her stick figures, by the way: they were always in crayon, they always had big, open smiles, and if she was drawing for me, they always had a fat brown spiral of curls with a bow on top.) Do you think that this kept her from making our halloween costumes? Heck, no! If she was getting really fancy, she might hem something by breaking out the Stitch Witchery and the iron, but most of the time it was elmer's glue and a stapler. My sister has a story about a pair of aluminum foil angel wings that haunts her to this day.
My mom wasn't always prepared. I always wondered why she seemed so frazzled. (Then I had three kids and called her up and said, "I am SO SORRY! I had NO IDEA.") I don't think that I had a single band concert that didn't start with me at the door, waiting impatiently for her to pull into our driveway with a new skirt or pair of tights. I always had to change in the back seat. For anyone in my life who still wonders why I have absolutely no modesty: fifteen years of changing costumes in the wings AND CHANGING IN THE BACK SEAT!
My mom was a saint when it came to carting me to and from a kabillion rehearsals and performances over the years, but when it came to auditions? Drove. Me. Crazy. First of all, she always insisted that I audition with, "this song". You know, the song I've never heard, that song for which we have no accompaniment or sheet music? The song just enough out of my range to terrify me? For the audition in an hour that she told me about oh...roughly ninety minutes ago?! Did she know about these auditions before-hand? I have no idea, but I spent my adolescence taking a deep breath and walking onstage to sell my talent with very little in the way of a game plan.
True story: One day, I went on an outing with Mom and my Nana. I was about ten, and being alone with them was my version of heaven. Until we arrived at a bandstand, my Nana whipped an Annie dress and wig out of a bag and I was told that we were there for a singing competition. I was told that I would sing, "Tomorrow". "But I don't know all of the words to 'Tomorrow'!" I said. They looked at one another, confused. Hadn't I seen the movie? So they sat down by some vending machines and wrote the lyrics out on the back of an envelope one of them had in her purse and said, "You have about half an hour before you go on." I won the Michael Jackson album, 'Thriller'.
Another true story:
Okay, this one was kind of my fault: My mom told a director that I'd worked with in the past (let's call her "C.") that I'd star in a little personal project that C. was putting on over the summer. I read the script and it was crap. Basically, this woman had plagiarized a dozen movies, sprinkled it with pop songs and changed a few words to make it about saving the environment. I won't go into detail, but there was a Star Wars Cantina scene in the middle and I had to sing Bette Midler's 'From a Distance' for the finale. Yeah. So, I spent absolutely zero time that summer memorizing that crap (and doing another show). Which was fine... until Mom dragged me to the performance. (Thank you, Jesus, there was only one!) I got through that "show" by reading my next lines in the wings before every scene. Suck.
(I just realized, re-reading this, that I'm kind of making Mom sound like my performance pimp. Honestly, 90% of the time I was totally on board. The comic Russell Brand has a line in one of his routines that makes me laugh my ass off every time: The audience applauds and he says, "Don't bother with that. I hear it in my head, constantly." That? Is me.)
So how did all of these little life lessons help me in the long run?
Well, you know all of those pesky term papers that required 400 book references? The ones you were supposed to work on for months? I never worked on it until the night before. I'd go to the library and check out every book they had on my subject. I'd cart them home and write my bibliography first. Then I'd browse a few of the books that looked the most promising and write my paper, randomly pulling a sentence here and there to quote references. Got an A+. Every. Time.
A year or so ago, while working at the storage garage where we were storing the last of Mom's stuff, Lisa and I accidentally dropped the keys (to the van AND the storage garage) into the hole for the van's trunk lift support.
Now, we could have panicked. Well, we did swear, but then we MacGyvered a hook out of a McDonald's straw that was in my glove box, a piece of wire (from a straightened-out key ring), a piece of paper, and Lisa's earring. And then we fished our keys out.
Last week, my bella figlia came home jazzed and crowed, "Hey, Mom! I got a B+ on my book report for history day and I didn't even read the book! I was sitting in class, praying, 'Please don't pick me, please don't pick me..' so then of course she called my name, so I just got up and spouted off everything that I know about my subject and I got a B+!!!"
And I said, "Way to go, babe!" and high-fived her. It wasn't until afterward that I realized that maybe most parents wouldn't have considered that a good thing. She didn't do her assignment. She wasn't prepared. But she faced the music and she worked with what she had and she pulled it off. She's joined the ranks of all of the strong, smart women that have come before her and I am welcoming her with open arms. Her Nana would be so proud.
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