A few weeks ago I sang an opera aria (Vissi d’Arte from Tosca) at a funeral. After the service, one of my neighbors came up to me and said, “Who knew that the woman who runs up the hill to the bus stop in her pajamas every morning could sing like that!” After I overcame my initial embarrassment (I like to pretend that nobody can actually see me in my red polar bear jammies—it’s usually dark, after all), we laughed together about our meetings. It seems that every time she sees me I am covered in paint because I am doing home improvement projects, in dirt because we’ve been working in the yard, or, most often, in my pajamas. Because I am running to the bus stop with my daughters at what feels like the crack of dawn.
I have never once mentioned to this neighbor that I am an opera singer, so her surprise was understandable. Because, mostly, I don’t think of myself that way. I am a mom who happens to sing, not a singer who happens to have children.
I am an incredibly normal mom who deals with all the same things every other mom deals with: Temper tantrums (my own as well as the children’s), messy rooms, dirty dishes, piles and piles (and piles) of laundry, stacks of bills (but not stacks of money), grocery shopping with all three children in tow, to-do lists that are a mile long, and more. While you might find me singing as I do the dishes or vacuum, I’m usually not thinking about whatever aria is sitting on my piano waiting to be learned. In fact, I’m highly embarrassed about all of the time I didn’t put into practicing for the latest opera I was in, which included some of the most difficult ensemble music I’ve ever sung.
The other day, while I was running errands with my youngest daughter I wasn’t wearing any make-up (sorry, Mom), had barely combed my hair, and had on old jeans and a faded t-shirt. The clerk punched in my phone number for the rewards card, verified my name and then looked at me and said, “Oh! I saw you sing opera in a concert last year! It was amazing. You have a really amazing talent.” And just like at the funeral, I had to recover a little bit from my embarrassment—not because I was wearing my pj’s, but because I forgot. I was just your average, run-of-the-mill mom, out buying favors and decorations for her soon-to-be-five-year-old’s birthday party. I certainly didn’t feel like someone with a “really amazing talent” and I most definitely didn’t look it.
It feels kind of like a secret life, even to myself. Of course my closest friends know. But it just doesn’t come up in regular conversation with most of the people I interact with. Because children are the thing I have in common with most people, and it’s what we talk about. It’s what all moms want to talk about. And while it’s really fabulous to be up on the stage in front of an audience, it’s much more satisfying to make sure my home is a haven for my three children, who are my greatest gift in life. As exciting as applause is, it’s so much better to see my girls be excited about their personal triumphs. And, thrilling as it is that my picture was in yesterday’s paper, I’m so much more thrilled when one of the girls draws a picture of me. My children bring me a lasting joy that you can’t quite put a price on.
And so I go about my life as a mother, and occasionally I am reminded that, oh yeah, I sing pretty well, too.
I’m sure I’m not the only one with a secret life. In fact, I’m pretty sure we all have one. What’s yours?