I’m at sea.
Tonight [Saturday, February 28th], ElsaDaughter and I went to the Project Arts Theatre in Temple Bar to see the short Seawall, a one man show of just thirty five minutes performed by Dubliner Andrew Scott. Recognise him from somewhere? That’s because he plays Jim Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock. He’s in loads of other stuff too but that’s what IMDb is for.
To my shame, ElsaDaughter had never been to a serious production before: the Gaiety panto doesn’t really count as theatre, does it? And I’m a Literature grad: a bad one, clearly. I don’t really know how that one slipped past my good parenting/English teacher radar but it did. So, as her first exposure to “proper” drama, there was a fair bit riding on tonight. If she hated it; if it was contrived, pretentious bullshit then I could push her away from all potential future theatre outings with me.
I have been to the Project only a handful of times: once two friends and I from home weren’t allowed in because we were late. And a bit pissed. It was my birthday and we’d had food and wine at one of our places. Another time I saw an adaptation of Ulysses, which despite my degree and MA in Anglo-Irish Literature, I hated until that production featuring an incredible set and a Molly who you’d want to have pints with. I hadn’t a fucking clue what was going on in that bloody interminable novel till I saw it on stage. The only reason I passed that module was down to some hard core damsel-in-distress flirting with my tutor.
We got to the Project after trudging through swathes of drunken, leery tourists: English rugby fans over for a thrashing (on the pitch, not outside the chippers, I hope).
Thirty five minutes shouldn’t be enough time to present an audience with the whole spectrum of human emotions but Andrew Scott did it. The Space Upstairs at the Project is a bit like the old Tivoli: a blank, black space where other audience members are in full view. Not just the tips or backs of their heads but their faces, expressions, reactions, clothes. It’s like a giant, tiered, three-sided boardroom and Scott was our Conversed, faded jeansed(?), navy Lacoste polo shirted chairperson. But somehow, every other face faded into the charcoal bricked walls and it was me, just me, alone: listening and feeling and falling apart with Alex, the man who can’t believe his luck to have the life he has land in his lap and then watches it drown in front of him: helpless, expectedly.
How can you love a character instantly? I don’t know. But I did.
As I drove back later that night, the view: the panoramic shot over the city stunned me. It always does. Life: living and dying and fanning the flames of regret; hope and grief and loss and love climbing the walls and crashing to the depths. Everything we know and don’t know in one wide angle glimpse from a car stuck at traffic lights, coming from home and going back home to where life has a chance of not bleeding to death.
My Spotify playlist knew to play, not sad songs but, songs of happy days faded out to hours of empty nostalgia and the pain of having and losing which has to be worse than not having at all.
I was going to leave this edit until tomorrow proper but seeing as I’ve drifted into a tide of old photos: printed ones too – nobody prints photos anymore, maybe because they seem less potent when they aren’t tangible slivers of a dead and dreaming past when you can’t hold them in your freckled hand – now, I guess I’d like to close this episode off and start anew from what is today but still feels like a tomorrow.
I thought I’d look for previously undigitised memories of ElsaDaughter (to showcase her infantile cuteness online while mortifying her as only an Irish mammy can do), in the stash that My Lady loosely chronicled for me. I must have dumped them all at home when I left My Husband. There are lots of our wedding; our homes together; nights out (we always had great nights out); our young lives on beaches and in cities; in airports and in restaurants; at rugby matches; hungover; at christenings and weddings and with the girls. It looks like it was always summer but then those old early digital cameras were… hazy.
A whole other life. She looks older. That girl. She was just twenty four. Ten years and she’s another woman with a life she never thought of. I also never thought I’d finish a sentence with a preposition.
The last few days have been seasick: like I’m on a gigantic aircraft carrier dwarfing a tiny trawler and watching the lone crew member vomiting over the side: disorientated; unseeing; flailing but static. I’ve been so ill I had to go straight to bed after the match on Sunday and I didn’t get up till this morning – thirty six hours later. Nightmares and fantasy series storylines; cold sweats and wee-inducing fits of sneezing; heart races and spinning worlds – I finally went to the doctor. €147 and twelve hours later, I’m feeling human and even managed to complete ElsaDaughter’s birthday present which was new bed linen (wow, that’s… practical) and my attempt at curtaining her bed into a four poster type arrangement.
I hope she likes it, I think she does. I never have the money to spend on her that others do for her birthday, or Christmas. I hate that. I’m her mother: I should be spending the most. Not her grandparents or her friends or her father. I stuck up a few bamboo poles and got a few bits in The Irish Way Of Saying Thank You Discount Store. I wish I could take her away somewhere. Or let her go with her friends. To say thanks for sticking with me even when I was in the race for the wooden spoon in Mother of the Year Award.
How did I manage to keep her alive for fifteen years? Jesus, I knew sweet fuck all about kids and parenting really. And yet, she’s in there in her mock four poster bed; exams almost done; healthy and smart; confident and curious; funny and kind; deliciously laid back and heart stoppingly beautiful. I had a lot of help along the way. But I did that: my body created her and somehow I haven’t left her behind in Tesco (though I was once tempted) or left her to be reared by the dogs. They could all eat shoes.
Even after fifteen years, sometimes I still get that smack in the chest feeling when I remember I’m a mother.
I am a mother.
I am someone’s mother.
I’m a mother?
Yes, you are a mother.
Fuck. Me? Shit.
And there I am against the Seawall thinking about how far I’ve already come out and how I’m still swimming and how I can keep going to say, Wales , or maybe France where it’s warmer and ElsaDaughter is there, a life jacket, a buoy, and I keep moving because her hand is almost within my touch.
To stumbling through motherhood! 💋