What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon
[p.57]So there I was, listening to the car radio while hauling my four-year-old off to preschool.
“Meet your favorite Utah Jazz Dancer after tonight’s game!” said the announcer. “Talk to her! Get her autograph! Don’t miss out on this fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime experience!”
That’s all I needed to hear, and before I knew it, I was very busy imagining Jazz Dancers after the game, all smiles and hair, ready to meet their adoring public.
But what if there was one Jazz Dancer nobody wanted to meet? What if all the Jazz Dancers had huge lines waiting to get their autographs except for one? And what if she just stood there in her snappy little lycra outfit, smiling as hopefully as a seventh-grade girl at a junior high dance, and still nobody came? Before long people would start to feel sorry for her. They would avoid making eye contact and she would have to wonder what was wrong with her until finally some very sweet older woman asked for her autograph out of pure kindness.
The more I thought about all this, the worse I felt. I could feel this Jazz Dancer’s pain as though it were my own, mostly because I knew in my heart of hearts that if I were a Jazz Dancer, the same terrible thing would happen to me. No doubt about it, I would be the one that everybody ignored.
I tried to imagine why people would ignore moi that night after the game. Maybe I got confused and put my clothes on the wrong way. I did that once. I was standing in front of my freshman English class, mentioning a little something about (a) subjects and (b) verbs, when I realized my skirt was on backwards. I let out a brief, terse scream which I did not explain to my startled students who later walked away from class that day more convinced than ever that only The Truly Insane major in English.
There could be other reasons people were ignoring me, as well. Maybe there was a problem with my hair. Bad perm, perhaps? Bad cut? Bad color? Of course I’ve tried them all. My hair and what it’s not doing right, in fact, is a source of endless concern to me and my [p.58]mother. We’ve even been seriously considering buying one of those Hair Genies you see advertised on television at 1:00 in the morning. It seems like a pretty amazing invention, allowing you to put your hair in an air bun with one hand while driving your car with another. I think it holds real possibilities for me. Next thing you know I’ll be starring in an all-new infomercial, wearing my Jazz Dancer outfit and explaining how the Hair Genie changed my life.
But I digress.
At any rate I was in a rare snit about the whole Jazz Dancer thing by dinnertime. How dare people not stand in my line! How dare they ignore me, thereby making me the object of pity among my Jazz Dancer sisters with their lines all the way out to West Valley City. To paraphrase your Shakespeare, do I not bleed when people prick me? Do I not laugh when they tickle me, and die when they poison me? Am I not a human being and so forth, too?
Even my kids sitting around the table noticed something was bothering me.
“Like, what’s the matter with you?” my fourteen-year-old asked. Mostly he was irritated that I was in a bad mood since being in a bad mood is supposed to be his job now that he’s in junior high school.
“Where were you guys when I needed somebody to stand in my line?” I retorted.
The words speechless and possibly even dumbstruck pretty much sum up my family’s response at that precise moment.
“Do you think,” Ken ventured gently, “that winter is getting to you?”
I paused. Perhaps he had a point. After all, when the days are short and dark and cold, one can be seized by wild and unpleasant imaginings.
“Just a few more weeks, Ann,” he soothed, “and then it will be spring.”
Already the crocuses and pansies, the violets and daffodils are stirring. The days are lengthening. The breezes are warming. I can step out on my front porch and taste the change of seasons in the air.
Soon my boys will start their endless games of baseball on the front lawn. Soon the tree outside my window will be filled with bird [p.59]noise again. Soon the air will hang thick with the scent of lilacs, reminding me of all the lilacs from springs before.
Ken’s right. It’s almost here.
Time to hang up the old Jazz Dancer uniform for good.