Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Shakespeare in the Park

We went to Shakespeare in the Park this week.  David and Zuzu and I met up with a few friends, spread out a quilt and a picnic on the grass, and laughed our way through Twelfth Night with the help of a most delicious sangria.  The weather was gorgeous--clear and cool (it dropped down to 55 degrees!).  There was a huge crowd, which made the show even more fun (especially since my friend Meghan got there early enough to snag us a great spot).  We wrapped up in blankets and leaned against each other and even when my back hurt and the ground got uncomfortable, I loved every minute of it.

The last time we went to Shakespeare in the Park, I was 8 or 9 weeks pregnant with Eliza.  It was three years ago--May of 2010.  That afternoon I'd had some light spotting earlier in the day and I was so devastated.  I was so afraid that I was going to miscarry.  I remember tearfully telling David that I already loved this baby and I didn't want to lose this baby even if we could have another one because this was Baby Duck and I already loved Baby Duck so much.

I called the nurse's line at my doctor's office, even though I knew there was nothing they could do.  She asked me if I was cramping, and I remember telling her I didn't know because my stomach was too knotted up with anxiety.  She told me to relax and rest and to call back if I needed to.

I wasn't sure I wanted to go to Shakespeare, and we almost didn't go, but I think David wanted a distraction from our anxiety.  So we packed up a picnic and headed to the park, just the two of us.  My spotting had stopped by then, but I was hyper paranoid.  I used the gross-me-out port-a-potties four times that evening, just to make sure things were okay.  I remember praying that I'd get to bring this baby to Shakespeare next summer, and making lots of bargains about all the things I'd do or wouldn't do if this baby would just be okay.

The play was Hamlet.  I remember that it was pretty well done, but my main pregnancy symptom was tiredness and I couldn't stay awake for the second act.  Once they lowered the lights after intermission, I laid my head down on David's lap and slept until curtain call.  (Confession:  I'd done the same thing the year before, but that was because I'd had a little too much wine during the first act.  Keeping it klassy at Shakespeare in the Park.)

And after Shakespeare, everything was okay.  No more spotting.  I felt fine.  I stayed pregnant.  My belly got bigger.  At every doctor's appointment, the baby was fine.  Better than fine.  Everything was perfect.  Until it wasn't.

I don't know what the show was in 2011.  I lost that year of my life to grief, and I had no desire to go to Shakespeare in the Park, to mingle with people whose lives hadn't been shattered.  I did nothing that year except figure out how to survive the sort of thing I didn't really want to survive.

And little by little, life got more manageable.  And then I got pregnant again.  Last summer, we talked about going, but by the time it rolled around, I was 36 weeks pregnant and sitting on the ground (or even on a lawn chair) for three hours sounded less than fun.  And so we skipped Shakespeare again in 2012.

This year, we were back.  Baby in tow.  Doing things we would have done with Eliza, but with Zuzu instead always weirds me out a little.  I'm at least capable of doing them now, but there's always a pang or a twinge involved, and afterward I always tell David, "I miss Eliza."  Even so, we had a great time, and Zuzu appeared to have been born to attend Shakespeare in the Park.  I seriously had no idea she would enjoy it so much!

The play started at 8pm, which is well past bedtime (sidenote:  Bedtime has been going more smoothly, although there's often always a few minutes of fussing at the start--I just wish she could go to bed without crying at all!  Oh, and I have to say that we have ignored advice to move bedtime earlier.  She sleeps from roughly 7:30pm to 7:30am and I don't want to mess with that--I don't think she'd sleep more than twelve hours if I put her to bed earlier and I don't want her up before 7am!).

I was really hoping that she would be sleepy when we arrived at the park after the car ride.  I imagined that she would nurse quietly under a blanket, and then doze off in my arms and sleep next to us on the blanket.

(I will pause while you all laugh at me.  Hey, it totally would have gone down like that just a few months ago!)

My big eleven-month-old girl was NOT sleepy when we arrived, but was totally stimulated by being outside and surrounded by people.  She really should have been on stage herself.  She greeted my friend Meghan (who had saved an amazing viewing spot for us) with huge smiles, helped herself to one of Meghan's crackers, and then insisted on dipping it in hummus before eating it.  Nevermind that we'd had dinner before leaving the house--she was all about the crackers and hummus.

She thought it was hilarious to drop backwards onto a folded quilt.  While double-fisting crackers.
She crowed with delight over being allowed to play with another friend's cell phone, and she flirtatiously waved to people sitting near us (waving is her newest trick--it's as adorable as you'd imagine, especially because she usually turns her hand toward her own face as she opens and shuts her fingers, so she's kind of waving at herself while grinning at someone else).

Once the play started, she stared for a moment at the action on stage, then quickly got bored and busied herself trying to grab things off everyone's plate and waving a butterknife around (safety first!).  We usually don't give her a binky unless it's bedtime, but I make exceptions for being-quiet-while-out-in-public time, so she sucked away on her bink and kept the screeching to a minimum.

She did nurse under a blanket, but mostly spent that time trying to rip the blanket off of us.  We tried to keep her happy and non-disruptive, and she actually was very cooperative.  But around the fiftieth time that she was nose-diving for the cookies, she did that that back-arching thing when I tried to redirect her to the small pile of quiet toys we'd brought, and I knew that she was over-tired and one short fuse away from a meltdown.  (Not to mention it was almost 9pm)

Fortunately, David and I had pre-planned for this scenario!  I got up with the baby and moved quickly to the sidewalk at the edge of the crowd.  He followed with the carseat and stroller, and we got her fastened in and on the move.  She squawked for just a second until the stroller started moving and then she was asleep in less than five minutes.  David circled back to the blanket at intermission (which was not long after) and then collapsed the stroller again and set the carseat next to us on the ground.  Zuzu slept peacefully all through the rest of intermission and the second act and the applause at the end.

Once we got home, however, she did not sleep well, which just goes to show that late bedtimes do not work well for babies.  But it was still worth the hassle, and I was thrilled that we didn't have to leave early with a screaming baby.

Shakespeare was exactly perfect, and in many ways what I thought it would be.  Just, you know, three years late.

Life will never be what it might have been.  But these days we are living now are sweet, sweet days.  And I'll take them, even if they are late and even if they aren't what I had once imagined.  You know that theatre saying, "The show must go on"?  I guess it's kind of like that.  We have to go on.  And even though there's a part of me that wants to protest that even still by dropping out of life, by boycotting Shakespeare and all the other things I thought we'd do with Eliza precisely because we can't do them with Eliza, I know that nobody gains anything from that.  The show does go on.  The world does keep turning.  And as much as that still infuriates me, I'm finally able to be part of it again.  It feels okay to come back to life now.

It feels even better on a blanket under the stars, surrounded by good friends and good food, watching a four-hundred-year-old play that still makes us laugh.  Especially when I can reach out my hand as often as I want, and rest it gently on Zuzu's chest and feel the soft rise and fall of her breath--the very breath that breathed me back into life.


  1. Beautiful Brooke. Just beautiful.


  2. We're headed there this weekend with my parents. I love it as well, and so do the girls. Ella always slept peacefully through it until she was old enough to get into it, but Frances never did. It is still always a fun night, even with diversionary trips to the port-a-johns. Ick. Fingers crossed that the rain holds off in the evenings this weekend.

    Didn't you love the set this year? I run by it every afternoon, and it was really fun to watch it go up.

  3. "The very breath that breathed me back to life" is a lovely statement that I will think of when I hear my little Jo Jo breathing away at night. There are too many moments to count that are bittersweet as I take her places, introduce her to people, and do things with her I never got to do with Avalon. Thank you for continuing to inspire me.

  4. Sweet post, Brooke. I also loved your last sentence. I can't imagine what my life would be like now without my rainbow. (Well, I can, but I never will.)

  5. What a perfect day. Sounds lovely and memorable and something you can always think back upon.

    I can't remember when things changed for me, when I stopped wondering and wishing for what might (should?) have been and just accepted this is how it is. But one is always missing.

    ps: super proud of you for going out past bedtime - we are so boring and can't make it to Home Depot past 7:30 - never mind Shakespeare in the Park. Well done, my friend.

  6. "the very breath that breathed me back into life."
    Yes yes and yes some more. I didn't know how to put this feeling until you wrote it. V turns 1 in two days and it's really just emotional. I miss more than ever the boy that never got to blow out a candle (V blows bubbles so pretty sure he can tackle this) or smoosh cake in his hair. The rash of emotions is almost more than I can handle, but I am glad that we decided to keep it to just us and actually looking forward to getting that balloon with the dog on it and my (yes my!) favorite cake from the bakery. So glad that you were able to have a wonderful time with friends and the fam in the park. Truly precious ~Missy

  7. Aw what a sweet post, what a difference time can make! And Zuzu continues to kill me with the cute!!!

  8. What sweet waving gesture by zuzu. Totally hillarous!!
    Glad you had a good time. I would love to watch shakespeare on the park, since we had like 2 plays in high school, including twelth night. Just that, I dont think my hubby would enjoy it that much. Sigh :(
    Our little one gets super excited on seeing a crowd, may be coz she does not go to daycare. Everytime she is in a restaurant, she has always had a meltdown and we had to gobble up food and run back for cover ...

  9. Love this post! I never had my rainbow baby, but I do feel such tremendous gratitude for the one daughter I did manage to have before all the losses. She breathes life into me every single day...

  10. The little triggers of memories of when our babies were still alive and growing can be so odd. Scary spotting but also sweet to know how much you loved Eliza then and now. And how she felt how much she was loved and wanted.

  11. What a beautiful post and such a great memory for your family. I often find myself looking back at how differently things are each year now that Ian is a part of our family and Lily still is gone. It's crazy to think how much has changed each year and yet how much the missing still remains.

  12. I can now say I know that feeling. Doing the things you were planning and in visioning doing with your expected, loved, gaurenteed child...but with your rainbow/second/follow up child because that loved and expected and at on time gaurenteed child died.

    Super double life feelings all around.

    This is a beautiful post Brooke. Eliza is loved so very much.

  13. The show must go on. Yep...

    Dh & I went to Shakespeare in the Park once when we were first married, & haven't been back since. (Not that we didn't enjoy it.) Your post makes me want to go again. ; ) I can't remember the name of the play we saw, but it was one of the ones about two sets of twins separated & then reunited. Two of the actors in it have gone on to fairly substantial careers -- Daniel Kash (whose mother was a famous Canadian singer, Maureen Forrester) & Henry Czerny.