We’re cuddled under a make-shift tent on the couch, while her brother naps. I’ve draped a knit blanket overhead, and it filters the sunlight into tiny granules that dance whenever we move the blanket. We are listening to the original cast recording Sondheim’s Into the Woods, a masterful retelling of fairy tales, a story about innocence lost and the fallacy of “happy ever after.” And at the same time, I think, about hope’s inextinguishable return. In spite of it all.

I watch her as she listens and consider myself more fortunate now than I have ever been in my life. To have moments such as these in the first place, and to know that their preciousness is rarely lost on me, in the second.

Last night her mama closed a smash-hit run of this extremely challenging show with her youth musical theater company.  I imagine the waves of bittersweet washing the proud parents in the audience, as they watch their just-graduated-from-high-school, about-to-move-away-to-college, (now-no-longer) children facing them, singing the finale to this musical. At least half a dozen such parents were among the 300 in the house. One, whose only son is off to Tisch School of the Arts at NYU next month, wept (with joy, with pride, with sorrow, with the sweetness of it all) every night of the run as she watched from the back of the house. Who’s to blame her.

When the beloved hugged her after the show, the woman and her husband said again what they’ve told her before: “It goes so fast.”

Meanwhile, I cling to stories like the one the lil’ monkey told me before going to sleep last night, about the fairies that only she and her brother see.  I’ll believe in them, as long as she does.

Below, the Broadway Woods finale, featuring “Children Will Listen,” for Sondheim lovers who have three to five minutes and a hanky or two to spare.  A minute and a half in is when Bernadette Peters takes the helm with the song. Three minutes in it blends into the finale, which, one supposes merely for the sake of relief, is not nearly so heart-tuggy.

For those want to follow along with the lyrics:

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn

Guide them along the way
Children will glisten
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen

Careful the wish you make 
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free

Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen

11 thoughts on “Listening”

  1. Lovely thoughts. Excellent insight. Beautiful post. Children really are amazing and being lucky enough to parent them (I’ve only nannied them) is a truly great thing worthy of tearfulness and insight.

  2. Almost, but not totally off topic, you two make the prettiest babies.

    Totally on topic; beautiful, beautiful post, Polly. Those kids are really lucky to have such amazing parents.

  3. Janean, I heart that you do, and Heather, I concur. I now realize that’s so much of the thing about them. As-yet untarnished human beings (those that are fortunate), and we watch in amazement at what that looks like. And try really really hard to prolong the moment.

    Mr Lady, what a wonderful thing to say. You know, I’d so like to say they get their looks from their Baba. Hell, I could say that. And cite the mysterious dogs-looking-like-their-owners dynamic. (Though is it owners looking more and more like their dogs?) Either way, thank you.

  4. ack!!

    sublime post.

    and so….well….pregnant with a profound prophetic meaning for me personally.

    and also we just saw the fabulous bernadette and well there is nothing like her….

  5. yep, beautiful!

    who knew that parenthood could make me feel so melancholy (about time passing so quickly) and sentimental (I just clipped her bangs for the first time and saved every hair)?

    I think the best parenting advice I got while I was pregnant was, “you know, your kid is always listening. Not just when you *want* them to listen, but all the time listening. You don’t get to pick and choose the parenting moments.” And I say, Yikes!

  6. Thank you, Stacy (mama-om), and welcome. It’s a nice bunch of folks around here, I must say.

    You know, Virgotex, it’s been only thanks to my musician sweetie that I’ve been educated in the ways of the American musical (and the European opera). But I have to say that Sondheim is a pip.

    Perkl8, thank you. And I second your “Yikes!” with a “Zoiks!” And directorgrrl, thank you, too. And ! you saw Bernadette! That would be right up there with Kiri Te Kanawa, I’m thinking (whom I finally saw in recital some years ago, and the usher totally didn’t believe I was in the right section as I made my way to my box seat. “Lady, I’ve been saving up for these for two decades,” sez me.)

  7. Love the picture and post. She looks absorbed and serene. There are obviously no tickle monsters or wolves (friendly or otherwise) trying to get in your tent (or den as we would say). Impromptu dens are a fall back tactic in our house: one of the last resorts to usurp restless energy. Sometimes converting it to concentration and play, more often a writhing, squealing, anarchic, tickle fight.

    But the dots of light are the ‘gilded motes’ of icing on the cake. Superb.

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