It took a while for me to get pregnant, and I was beyond thrilled when it finally happened. Nevertheless, I knew becoming a mom meant saying goodbye to some things, and I was a little sad about the things that would be a part of my life no more. I remember one night, I sat in the balcony at Arena Stage watching a play, baby Pavo turning flips in my belly, and I thought, “It’s too bad this life of theatre will be over for me.”
I’ve been an avid theatre-goer for more than half of my life. Back in SC, I acted in plays and ushered at several area theatres. I have not done any acting in more than a decade, but I still love attending theatre. In particular, I love ushering, because it allows me to see lots of plays for free.
For the past seven — eight? could it even be nine? — years, I have ushered at Arena Stage and The Shakespeare Theatre (Company) in DC. My lovely husband started ushering with me 6 years ago. We see more than a dozen plays each year at those two theatres. It has been a significant part of our life and our cultural experience, and I was a little sad about saying goodbye (even though having a baby would be TOTALLY worth it).
I talked about it with Mr. Wonderful, and we realized that I did not *have* to give up ushering; we would just have to change it up a bit. We still usher together for Shakespeare, but we’re only scheduled for half of the opening nights, bringing it down to 4 or so shows a year — which, at least in theory, seems like a reasonable number of babysitting engagements. (in actuality, maybe not) Mr. Wonderful volunteered to give up ushering at Arena and stay home with the baby, so I could usher with a friend. This was a wonderful gift to help me adjust to a new life.
So I ushered last year… and never missed a date at Arena! (It helped that I was not scheduled for a month or so after E was born, and the next show was something I really wanted to see. Too bad I fell asleep during it.) But in the end, keeping up with the usher schedule while becoming a new mom was more than a little overwhelming.
The thought that I could continue ushering was a wonderful gift to help me adjust to a new life, but once that new life was in place, it was hard to fit in all those theatrical engagements. It was hard to leave my sweet baby (and husband), to pump and leave bottles and worry. When it came time to renew ushering again this year, I was ready to give up the Arena schedule. But I was lured back by two friends who were still enthusiastic about ushering. The added social benefit pushed me over the edge. Because I dragged my feet so long, there were fewer ushering spots open by the time I renewed. This turned out to be a good thing for me, a more manageable schedule with fewer plays.
So yesterday, I found myself facing another round of usher training, a little ritual Arena requires every year. It was the last training of the year, scheduled on a beautiful Sunday morning when I should have been in church (or praising God’s beautiful creation in nature) (or giving thanks for Dr. Martin Luther King). Mr. Wonderful had to teach our Sunday school class without me. So as an act of penance, I brought Ezra along to the usher training with me. I suspected Arena might not be very impressed with his attendance, so I dressed him up in an usher outfit — white button up shirt, dark pants. Ready to work!
Ezra was OK with the first hour of training. I plied him with contraband cheerios to keep him quiet and let him crawl in the back of the theatre. By the second hour, he was d-o-n-e, but he stuck with it, mostly, thanks in part to a very entertaining door stopper.
I am excited about another year of theatre with friends!
I know this season of life will not last. At this point, Ezra goes to sleep before the curtain goes up. Soon enough, there will be evenings of soccer games and homework and choir practice. I’ll give up ushering, and will only see a couple plays a year. I’ll miss it sometimes, but mostly I’ll be too busy to remember. And then too soon, Ezra will grow up and leave home. And that, my friends, is when I will start working toward my life goal of becoming one of the little old ladies who usher at all the area theatres. Matinees, get ready! I’ll see you in 2040!