This week my son spent three afternoons auditioning for the school musical at his high school. Each night when he came home, I was eager to hear all about what happened. He acted fairly casual about the whole affair, giving me fewer details than I was clamoring for. Whether he’s nervous or not, I owned up to the fact that I was bringing all my high school angst, excitement, and giddiness about being in the school play to our conversations. I was involved in every play in high school, either on or off stage. The cast and crew created a family during each show, as did the Drama department in general, which gave me a connection to school and friendships I’ll never forget.
My acting career ended the spring of my senior year. I actually didn’t think I was going to be able to be in that play. I had landed the part of Mrs. Strakosh, an old New York Jewish lady, in Funny Girl just before Christmas break. It was just after Christmas break that I was in the accident in which I lost my leg. One of my first thoughts after the accident– this is how important the plays were to me - was that Mrs. Strakosh was lost to me forever. But ten days later my drama teacher was in my hospital room handing me my script.
But being in Funny Girl wasn’t nearly as fun as the plays I was in before I lost my leg. It wasn’t that I wasn’t supported or accepted back into the fold. My friends were as amazing as high school friends can be. But my accident was like someone has ripped a hole in the fabric of my connections – to friends, to the plays, to school – and no amount of support could quickly mend that. I was frayed around the edges.
At the curtain call on opening night, squinting past the fourth wall and looking into the audience, I knew the thunderous applause was, in part, for me and not just the girl who played Fanny Brice. A slice of me loved the attention and acknowledgement, but a bigger part of me was transformed by it. I fully understood that I was being applauded for surviving the accident, not my acting. In that moment, I knew that I was just at the beginning of playing the biggest role of my life – the amputee who survived.
The only problem was, there wasn’t a script. I had to ad lib for years, figuring out my new part. I spent the first half of my twenties being the athletic and adventurous amputee and the second half being the spiritual amputee. Both physical adventures and spirituality helped me learn what I was made of.
In my mid-thirties, my role changed. I wasn’t just an amputee anymore, I became a mother. The most sacred role I’ve ever played. But now my kids are growing older, as have I. In another blink of an eye my kids will be out on their own.
I wonder what my next role will be, or if I need to even play a role at all. The hole that was ripped out of the fabric of my life has mended and then some. There has been so much more weft and weave added to my fabric. Perhaps, in my future role, I can wrap that round me in comfort, knowing that each role I’ve played has led up to this, to now, to just being me. I am beyond needing to prove myself or impress anyone.
Aaahhhh, perhaps the role of my lifetime is just that: Me.