Stage directions

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Always, there are the insights of people who are part of our lives, but just outside the inner circle of our immediate home life, to bring an objective perspective to what we do. With a word, a phrase, we suddenly see our everyday actions in a different light.

Last night, my sister stopped by my house on her way home from work. I had picked up some plants that she wanted for the garden, but I did not want the responsibility of keeping them alive through the predicted weather of another night of drought or severe thunderstorms—either seemed a distinct possibility. So she agreed to pick them up.

She arrived as we were eating dinner, and since part of our meal contained none of the ingredients that trigger her allergies, I offered her some food, and she accepted. Which is a long-winded way to say she hung around for a while.

After dinner, there was some talk of who was responsible for the dishes, and it was determined that it was J’s night. She promptly left the room, stating that “the leftovers needed to be left-overed” before she could begin. She spent the next ten minutes flitting in and out of the kitchen—complete with her J-like theatrical flourish—while I talked with Auntie.

The cat came in from outside and proceeded to regurgitate the organic material he had ingested—as cats do—onto the kitchen floor. It was a lovely addition to the non-stop-ness of the evening.

J flitted back into the kitchen. “Steps wide over the cat vomit,” she announced as she lifted her foot in an exaggerated dance-step over the puddle the cat left behind.

Auntie scrutinized J’s action. “Does everything come with stage directions now? ‘J enters the kitchen. Steps wide over the cat vomit….’”

I laughed. How many times had I heard one of the kids narrate his or her actions? How many times had I done so myself? Often, I would make a similar statement as I stepped over a child sprawled on the floor; my objective was first, to let the child know that I was trying to avoid him or her, and second, to let the child know that he or she was smack in the middle of the pathway through the room.

But this statement—a simple observation—from my sister helped me to reframe these narrations. They are like stage directions, and they tell the actor or actors what to do and how to do it.

I wonder if there is some way that I can edit these narrations and add my own. “J enters the kitchen; cleans up the cat vomit….’”

I think I’ll work on that….

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