We went to see a fabulous family show on Friday night called The Star Keeper performed by the Canadian puppetry company Théâtre de l’Oeil. It's about a wormy little puppet guy named Pretzel who finds a fallen star and tries to put it back in the sky, helped and hindered by other fantastical puppet creatures. Probably because Mothers' Day was impending, Pretzel's devotion reminded me of maternal devotion. A mother's task is to help her stars find their places in the sky, and if she does her job right, she will watch them shine from afar.
Shortly after the show began, Paolo moved from Sam's lap to mine and instantly started wiggling. He wiggled off of one leg, then the other, until he was sitting on the seat between my legs, and began wiggling forward. I assumed he wanted to go back to Sam, so I took my arms from around his waist. Two seconds later, he fell forward into the wooden chairback in front of us. Because it was dark, and the chair was angled, he couldn't catch himself. The full brunt of the impact-THWACK-was borne by his face. A four-row perimeter of showgoers gasped and turned to see what had made that ungodly noise and also because Paolo was screaming. Sam snatched him up to take him out of the theatre, but Paolo didn't want to leave. In under a minute, he was laughing again with the other children.
Although it was too dark to read expressions, I imagined disbelief and accusation on every face turned toward me, including Sam's. I couldn't blame them. I had my child on my lap, under my protection, and had allowed him to fall off, incurring loud, significant and painful damage to his head. What was my defense, he wiggled? I misconstrued a wiggle! My inner voice criticized me mercilessly into a total crisis of confidence. If I can't even keep my son uninjured at a puppet show, what qualifies me to have a child, much less two? Like a complete goon, I sat there empty-lapped, full-bellied and cried, because after four years I can still be so incompetent.
My overreaction was obviously caused by the stupid moodswings of incubation. Still, it's a hazard of motherhood that we swallow our children's misfortunes as small, bitter pebbles of guilt that weigh in our stomachs like lead. They become the proverbial pea under all those fluffy mattresses of everything we've done right. You know you're a true princess (and a true mother) when, resting on cushions stacked to the ceiling, that pea is all you can feel.
By the end of the show, my self-hatred was waning. Pretzel watched his star twinkle in the night sky, proving what I already knew. Even the best star keeper can drop her star. You just have to pick it back up and keep climbing; it's a long way to the sky.
Happy Mothers' Day to all the True Princesses and Star Keepers.