My sister-in-law Tracy and I were reminiscing via text messages yesterday morning. She is in Boston and it is our way of staying in touch every few weeks. We could actually talk on our phones, but neither of us likes that as much as we like texting, looking at photos together, and using emojis. It is probably because we are both multi-tasking as we type – doing laundry or cleaning, you know the drill on Saturday mornings if you work full time. She said something that stuck with me though. “Wish I kept a journal. It was crazy busy raising kids but we did it. We were resilient. I can be reflective now – wish I was a little more back then.”
Her words made me think immediately of the song What I Did for Love from A Chorus Line, one of the most impactful musicals I saw as a young woman in New York. By 1985 when the show opened, I had given up my dream of dancing on Broadway and was fully entrenched in the mad-men world of advertising. Yet, experiencing A Chorus Line was an emotional journey for me. Set on the bare stage of a Broadway theater, the musical features seventeen Broadway dancers auditioning for six spots on a chorus line. The show describes the events that shaped their lives as dancers.
At my first Broadway audition, I did not get asked to dance because I was not tall enough. At my second Broadway audition, I got to dance but was not selected. The dance captain noted that my dance skirt was too long (meaning I was not tall enough). Message received. I did get to see a college classmate who made the cast of A Chorus Line during that time, and it was with pure joy that I watched her realize her dream.
During a tap sequence at the end of A Chorus Line, one of the dancers falls and re-injures his knee. When he is carried off to the hospital, the remaining dancers are solemn and quiet, realizing that their careers can also end in an instant. The director asks them what they will do when they can no longer dance. They reply that no matter what, they will have no regrets, because they pursued what they loved. What I Did for Love is their anthem, and now looking at my life – it is also mine.
As parents of adult children Jim and I look back fondly on the chaos of raising our family, and oftentimes as we sit reflectively in our now-quiet home, we miss it. I don’t regret anything that I did to make my husband and my three children know they were always loved and always my highest priority. That meant doing a lot of driving and a lot of cooking, not to mention endless piles of laundry, and dealing with two dogs – one that loved to run away. It also meant being present, making choices for their education, traveling for their sports, and supporting them through disappointments and successes. No regrets.
Now, I feel an inner peace knowing my children are thriving, even as they complain about “adulting.” I am confident they have the skills needed to be successful and lead lives of purpose. The gift of my children’s daily presence was only mine to borrow. I always knew they would be launched one day, and I would feel that a small part of my soul was missing. I used to joke with them about “18 and out” – wish I had never said that. I hope they always know that love’s what we’ll remember, even as we point them toward tomorrow.
And, as for me, I can’t regret and I won’t forget, what I did for love.
What I Did For Love by Priscilla Lopez Kiss today goodbye The sweetness and the sorrow Wish me luck the same to you But I can't regret What I did for love Look my eyes are dry The gift was ours to borrow It's as if we always knew And I won't forget What I did for love Gone Love is never gone As we travel on Love's what we'll remember Kiss today goodbye And point me toward tomorrow We did what we had to do Won't forget can't regret What I did for love Love is never gone As we travel on Love's what we'll remember Kiss today goodbye And point me toward tomorrow We did what we had to do Won't forget can't regret What I did for love Songwriters: Marvin Hamlisch / Edward Kleban