HERE WE GO! HERE WE GO!

Happy New Year!  Wanted to post an update regarding my new one-woman show, I Am the One Who. I am scheduled to present the show 16 times during 2020. So exciting! This biomythography about the Sun Goddess coming out of the cave portrays my healing journey from childhood trauma to empowerment. It tells the story of how Fort Wayne Taiko, the first performing taiko group in Indiana, was born.  The run time for the full length show is 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission. It contains sensitive material and a trigger warning and is not appropriate for children.
 

I first presented the show in Toronto, Canada October 2019 working with Story Consultant/Director Anne Marie Scheffler.  The showing was well received and I learned a lot. I am now working with local directors Shelby Lewis and Kate Black Haluska to further develop the show.

The next performance will be in Chicago at the Cab Theatre at Stage 773 on Saturday, March 28, 7 pm. This full theatrical performance will feature Tiffany Tamaribuchi, the only internationally rewnowned FEMALE taiko drummer. 🙂  Tickets for this show are $25.

After the Chicago performance, I will create a one-hour version that I will present four times at Deva Fest in Indianapolis, April 17-19. This juried festival is for female playwrights. It will be interesting to see how my show compares to the other shows being presented in this festival. These performances will not be presented in theatres and will feature local taiko drummer Sara Sherman instead of Tiffany Tamaribuchi.

I will then take feedback from these April showings and prepare to present 6 performances at the Indianapolis Fringe Festival, August 13-23 and 4 performances at the Elgin Fringe Festival (outside Chicago) Sept 4-13. Again, these one-hour performances will not be presented in theatres and will feature local taiko drummer Sara Sherman instead of Tiffany Tamaribuchi.

And then the performance year will end in October with a big culminating weekend in Fort Wayne.  Fort Wayne Taiko will celebrate its 20th year anniversary by presenting a theater performance at the Allen County Public Library Theatre on Saturday, Oct 10, 2020 featuring Tiffany Tamaribuchi. On Sunday, October 11, 2020 I will present the 2-hour version of I Am the One Who at the same theatre and Tiffany will perform with me.

 

During November/December 2020, I will reflect and process everything I learn during the year and will determine how to package and market the show to trauma conferences and other appropriate venues during 2021 and beyond. My purpose of this project is to promote education, dialogue and healing regarding psychological trauma

Hope to share my work with you.
Hope to see you at a show.
Hope we all have a great and joyous year!
Here we go, here we go!
Yahoo!
Allison

AGGRIEVATION

“He’s dead,” the voice on the phone said flatly.

“What?” I asked. “Who is this?”

“It’s Roma,” my stepdaughter said with exasperation. She repeated, “Dad is dead.” Wait a minute, I think. What dad are we talking about here? My dad died a year ago. Confused, I decided to temporarily skip the who part and move on.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m standing in his apartment. The police are here. They’re removing his body right now. The man is dead. It appears he had a heart attack and died in his sleep.” Suddenly it hit me. She was talking about her dad. My ex-husband. She was talking about James.

“Where are your brother and sisters?” I asked.

“They’re in the car in the parking lot on the other side of the building,” she cried. “They don’t know yet. What should I do?”

“Drive everybody back over to my house,” I said. “I’m on my way.” I was already moving towards the door.

“But, what do I say to them?” she asked.

“You don’t have to say anything,” I advised. “Just focus on driving everybody home safely.”

I was at my mother’s visiting with her, my sister and brother-in-law. It was Christmas Eve and we were all gathering for what we expected to be our last Christmas in that house; since my Dad had died the previous November, my mother had decided the house was too big for her. Earlier in the day, my stepdaughters, Roma and Amanda, had picked up my son and daughter, Jacob and India, and drove them back to Fort Wayne to spend Christmas Eve with their dad. When they arrived at his house, he didn’t answer the door. They waited a while and then called me confused, wondering what to do. I suggested they go to my house and try calling him again from there. “I’m sure he just got tied up in Christmas traffic and will be home soon,” I had reassured them.

When they called a little later saying he still wasn’t answering the phone, I told them to stay put while I called the police. When the police said they’d drive over and check it out, I called the kids back and told them to wait at my house until they heard from me. I wasn’t expecting this call from Roma. Wasn’t expecting the kids would drive back over to their dad’s house. Wasn’t expecting them to find the police hauling his dead body out the door.

“James is dead,” I said bluntly to Mom, Babs and Buddy as I hung up the phone. “I have to go.” I had a single focus vision–to get to my children.

“Hold on,” Bud said. “We’ll drive you.” We all jumped into Mother’s car. The 45-minute drive to Fort Wayne seemed to take three hours. This made no sense. We were just getting good at being divorced. It was only a little over a year ago that Daddy had died. We had barely caught our breath. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Not on Christmas Eve.

I walked into my house and found all the kids in the living room playing the board game Aggravation. (As if we needed any more aggravation!)  “How’s everybody doing?” I asked hesitantly, testing the waters. Roma gave me a pained expression from across the room and nodded me into the kitchen.

“I couldn’t tell them,” she sobbed “I think they know, but I couldn’t tell them.”

Amanda walked into the kitchen crying. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is,” I said simply. As hard at this question was, I was glad it didn’t require a complicated response. I was at a loss for words.

Jacob came into the kitchen. Same question, same answer. We all stood in the kitchen looking at each other. Then I realized they were all looking at me. Three kids down, one to go. India, the youngest, was still in the living room playing Aggravation alone. I went in and sit down next to her. She flashed a smile big enough to show her one dimple.  But there was fear in her eyes. Her 9-year-old brain was busy between those blonde pigtails processing the confusion of the last few hours. But she didn’t dare ask the question her older siblings had asked. She fixed her grey eyes on me and waited.

“India,” I said gently, searching for words. “Sweetie, your daddy is dead.” She screamed and threw herself in my arms, then pushed me away, knocking herself and the Aggravation game to the floor. So much for the mother-of-the-year award. Then she was up again, pounding my chest, shaking her head, “No, no, no! I can’t live without him!” (That made the second worse news I had received that day.)

“I know it feels that way,” I said. I was fresh out of any brilliant words of comfort, so I went quiet and held her while we cried.

Good thing we drove Mother’s car because mine wouldn’t have been big enough to hold us all and I insisted we all drive back to Huntington together. My mother-bear instinct was flared full force and I was not letting a single one of those kids out of my sight. We all crowded into Mother’s car, dog in tow.  The trip must have made him nervous because when we get to Mom’s, he walked right in and peed on the fake snow that was laid out under one of the Christmas trees.

“Simba!” Mother shamed him. “I can’t believe you did that!” He looked at her confused as if to say, “Isn’t that why that tree and the snow are in here?” Poor puppy. We were all confused. She ripped out the soiled “snow,” leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the decorated holiday fantasy.

When we woke up Christmas Day, I had no idea what to do. The Christmas presents were all under the tree wrapped and ready. But how could we just open presents knowing James was dead? On the other hand, if we didn’t open them, he would still be dead and the unopened presents would be a merciless reminder.

“Yes, we should share Christmas!” Mother proclaimed. “James would want it that way.”

Not like I had any better idea. So we had coffee and Christmas morning casserole and opened presents. We got caught up in the excitement of ordinary Christmas moments and would forget.  And then one of us would remember and the tears would spread through the room like a virus. Everything was surreal. By the time we were done, we had as much dirty tissue as we did torn Christmas paper. The holiday had definitely been soiled with a big, gaping hole.

The next morning my best friend Sally called. “What do you need?” she asked. “How can I help you?” I closed my eyes and tried to organize my thoughts. It was the day after Christmas and I was still at my mother’s house. What did I need? I needed to let the dog out. I needed to do some laundry. I needed to make phone calls. I needed to load my mother’s car with Christmas presents and get my family home. Or maybe I needed to sit down with a cup of coffee and give this recent whir of events time to sink in.

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I guess I need to get into his house. We need his clothes and eyeglasses for the funeral. And we need his driver’s license so we can provide the morgue identification. And I just need to get in there and scope the place before the kids go in to get their things.”

“Do you want me to go with you?” she asked

“Well, the problem is, I don’t have a key.” I explained. “And I don’t know his landlord’s name or phone number.  And the city’s Office of Records is closed because of the holidays. So I don’t really know what to do.”

“Well, it sounds like we need to break in,” she said matter of factly.

“What? How do you suggest we do that?” I asked.

“Come pick me up and we’ll go over there together and figure it out,” she reassured me.

I borrowed my mother’s car and drove back to Fort Wayne. “What is that?” I asked when Sally climbed into the car with a small duffel bag.

“This? It’s my breaking-and-entering kit,” she said. “Didn’t we decide to break into his house?”

My head was swimming. “You have a breaking-and-entering kit?” I asked incredulously. “Whatever for?”

“For situations just like this!” she pointed out. “You never know when you might need to break in somewhere!”

Good grief. I didn’t even want to know what a breaking-and-entering kit might contain. But she was right. I did need to get in James’ rented house and I didn’t have a key. So it appeared a breaking-and-entering kit was just what we needed. And my best friend just happened to have one sitting right there with us in my mother’s Lincoln Towne Car. My guardian angel appeared to be on the clock after all.

We drove over to James’ house and parked. I sat in the car and took in the scene. His car was still parked in the un-shoveled driveway blanketed by snow. There were no telltale signs of death. No flashing neon signs that said: tragedy struck here. In my mind’s eye, I could see my four kids standing at his door knocking with snow-laced gloves, presents in hand, the excitement of Christmas wrapped around and between them like the cold. Surely they knocked several times. How long did they stand there before they finally turned away and decided to go home?

I shook my head, clearing the picture as Sally and I got out of the car. She moved up and down the side of the house, scanning the windows. “I think this one will do,” she said choosing the window closest to the back door. She pulled a tool out of the duffel bag and snipped the screen then somehow popped the window open. I had no idea what just happened, but in a matter of minutes I was standing in front of an open window that bid me entrance.

“Since I did the breaking, you should probably do the entering,” she said as she put her tools away. Recognizing some logic in that, I stepped closer to the window.

“Give me a boost,” I said and lifted my foot. She bent over, laced her fingers together, cupped my foot in both hands and hoisted me up. Palms down on the windowsill, I heaved myself forward. I was hanging half in and half out, with my tail sticking up in the air. “This is the last compromising position you will ever put me in!” I swore at James silently and then started laughing hysterically even though my stomach was pressing into the windowsill making it hard to breathe.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Sally said. “Get in there before someone sees us and calls the police.” She threw my legs inside.  I tumbled over a chair sitting under the window and onto the floor. “Now go open the door and let me in,” she directed through the window.

I stood up and looked around. The air was as still as–well, as still as death. I opened the back door and Sally came inside. We stood silently together, listening to…dead silence. We walked through the kitchen and into the living room. Presents were lined up on the couch, waiting to be shared and opened. I grabbed the wall, steadied myself and caught my breath. I was glad I was not here alone. And I was glad the kids were not here at all. They did not need to witness this post-death scene. The rumpled bed where his body was laying when they moved it out. The pre-made Christmas spaghetti sauce. The cheese ball platter. The unfinished work left on his desk. The journey through the house was a safari of surprises that jumped out like wild animals that clawed at my startled heart.

“Are you okay?”  Sally asked as she put her hand on my back.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” I grumbled. “Let’s get what we need and get out of here.”

We scurried around gathering clothes, eyeglasses, wallet–apparently, the initial needs of a corpse are similar to the needs of those of us who are still breathing. We closed the window, grabbed her breaking-and-entering kit and left the scene. I was fairly certain I did not get whatever it was I needed.

THE PEOPLE IN THE CLOSET

In my dream, my mother asks my husband James, “Would you set the table?” In my dream, he moves towards the pantry to get plates.  “Oh, don’t go in there,” she says. “We never go in there. The plates are over here.” She gestures towards the cabinets hanging above her head.

He pivots and heads towards the cabinets instead. “What’s in the closet?” he asks. She takes the muffin tin out of the oven and begins spooning cornbread mix over the hot oil that lies waiting at the bottom of each gaping hole. “Oh, that’s where we keep the people. You know, the People in the Closet.” The mix of cornmeal, egg and milk drops down the sides of the bowl. She wipes it clean with a wet cloth. “We don’t ever open that door.”

James stops mid-reach. “What do you mean the ‘People in the Closet?’”

My dream mom wraps a hot pad around the filled muffin tin, puts it back in the oven, closes the door, wipes her hands on a nearby towel and turns to look at him. She takes a deep breath and speaks slowly, so he’ll understand. “You know, the People. The People in the Closet.” Conversation over, she sets the oven timer and walks out of the room. “We’ll be eating in about 20 minutes,” she announces to the family. It is an ordinary day blessed with an ordinary family meal.

Later in my dream, James and I continue this conversation back at home. He is outraged.“What did your mother mean?” he demands. “Is your family really keeping people in the closet?” I shrug dismissively. It’s no big deal. I don’t understand why he is so upset. They are just the People in the Closet. They don’t deserve to be treated like real people.

“Don’t you ever let them out? Do you ever feed them?”  He is livid. And it doesn’t stop. Weeks pass and he is ranting and raving and carrying on and I am tired of it. “Allison, this is criminal!” he says. “It needs to stop!”

“Okay, okay,” I finally relent. “I’ll let them out, but not now. I’m too busy right now.” I realize how much time and energy they are going to need once they’re released. Between the kids and my job, I just don’t have time to deal with them right now.

But he doesn’t let up. “When are you going to let the people out of the closet?” he asks me while I am washing dishes, running the kids’ bath, folding clothes. I come in from work and instead of “Hello, how was your day?” he says, “When are you going to let the people out of the closet?” I sit down with a book and he interrupts my few rare, sacred minutes of quiet. “When are you going to let the people out of the closet?”

Finally, I’ve had enough. “You want me to let those people out of the closet?” I yell. “Fine!” I march over to the closet that is strangely now in my house and not my mother’s. I open the door and the people fall out. They lay in the middle of the floor: a starved, dirty little girl underneath an old man drooling tobacco juice. “There. They are now out of the closet! Are you happy? And now I have to go to work.” I step over them, grab my briefcase and purse and head out the door.  I step over them when I return home. I walk around them when I am talking on the phone and cooking dinner. I continue stepping over and around until James’ mantra changes.

“When are you going to deal with these people on the floor?” he starts asking.

“When I have time,” I say, avoiding the look in the little girl’s eyes. Enough already.

I wake up with the dream echoing through my head like a muffled scream. I am terrified. My fear devours me slowly, but not completely. I have not yet disappeared. I am still here to feel every agonizing moment. The terror straitjackets my heart and my blood runs cold. I am frozen. Literally, I cannot move. Not arms or my legs; not a single finger can I even twitch. Only my eyes can move. I throw my focus frantically around the room. My wild mind is searching for an escape route, a safe place to land so I can stop free falling through space and time.  James is sleeping beside me. I want to wake him up. If I can just wake him up, I’ll be safe. There is safety in numbers, isn’t there? This terror can’t stand true before a witness.

I try to move my hand to shake him awake, but it is glued to the bed. I try to call to him, but my voice is silent, my breathing quick and shallow. Something is dragging me to a place where everything is dark and cold. A closet. A demon is dragging me into the closet saying, “I’m here to take your soul.” I am desperate. Helpless. Frantically clawing inside, frozen outside, I am alone. Except for a small voice that calls to me from beyond. Barely discernible, it whispers, “It can’t control your breath. Breathe. It can’t control your thoughts. Surround yourself with light.”

In a last-ditch effort to claim sanity, I force myself to breathe. Slowly. Deeply. This is Custer’s last stand. With every ounce of energy, focus and courage I can summon, I visualize light all around me, inside and out. I breathe light into every cell. Open the closet door. Open all the closet doors. I breathe light into every crack and corner and crevice of my mind and heart and soul and house. I breathe light into the people I love and the people I don’t. If light is everywhere, there is no room for darkness. I breathe light until I am a bright, shimmering ball free to move and feel and be as I choose.

The demon flees. My breath continues, slow and deep and I begin to relax and go back to sleep. In that halfway place between the everyday and the ethereal, the fear returns. I flash awake and am paralyzed again. Again I am frantic. And again, I am reminded to breathe. I focus and regain control. I am caught up in a game against some formidable foe armed with the clammy palm of evil. My ally is a still, small voice. A tiny speck of spirit deep inside that keeps burning when everything goes black.

 

This is an excerpt from my new, recently-completed one-woman show, I Am the One Who. This biomythography portrays my healing journey from childhood trauma to empowerment.  The debut performance will be presented October 12, 7:00 pm at the Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto, Canada and will feature internationally renowned taiko drummer Tiffany Tamaribuchi!  (Yahoo!) Come check it out, but be aware that even though it’s grounded in a message of hope, it includes portrayals of sexual violence and childhood ritual abuse. Run time is 2 hours and includes a 15-minute intermission. A post-performance discussion will be held.

For tickets, go to universe.com/iamtheonewho

ETUDE

She is inside me. She is outside me. She surrounds me.

She is chewed fingernails. She is exalted esteem.

She is drowning in the distance.

She is floating in a tomb.

In a womb, she is floating. Face down, she is floating.

She flops herself over. She is breathing through her nose, her mouth.

The water rushes in. She is full, not choking.

She spits as needed. She knows how to spit. She knows when to spit.

She spits well. She spits far. She has learned.

No longer choked full, she gags with a force that cries “No more!” And she is quiet.

She is resting. She is listening. She is waiting.

She speaks. I’m not listening. She cries. I’m not listening.

She pleads. She whines. She screams. I’m not listening.

She is silent. Where did she go?

In her silence she knows I am seeking.

We play a game of mouse who is quiet and cat who does not chase,

but runs away all the way around until it’s coming back.

When you run in circles, halfway around is as far as you can go.

She waits for me to run halfway around and back. I find her waiting.

I ask her to speak and she answers with a caress that soothes,

with tears that fall,

with truth that beckons.

“Who are you?” I ask and she answers “Just me.”

Wisdom drawn from simplicity.

She holds strength like a volcano that lies dormant.

She holds pain like a fire that has settled.

She holds truth like a mirror that reflects.

She holds so much she needs to be held.

Not by some anonymous someone….she needs to be held by me.

She beckons, “Come closer.” On hands and knees I inch.

She beckons “Come closer.” On my belly I approach.

She beckons “Come closer.”

“I am right beside you,” I answer. “How much closer can I get?”

She does not speak. She crawls inside and settles. She is floating face up. She is alive.

She is breathing. Through nose and mouth water rushes in.

She does not choke. She does not spit. She swallows.

She absorbs me. I am embodied, a container unto myself.

I evolve neither chewed nor exalted.

I am just me.

I am whole.

I am divine, a six-pointed star.

I am the one who.

This is an excerpt from my new, recently-completed one-woman show, I Am the One Who. This biomythography portrays my healing journey from childhood trauma to empowerment.  The debut performance will be presented October 12, 7:00 pm at the Red Sands Castle Theatre in Toronto, Canada and will feature internationally renowned taiko drummer Tiffany Tamaribuchi!  (Yahoo!) Come check it out, but be aware that even though it’s grounded in a message of hope, it includes portrayals of sexual violence and childhood ritual abuse. Run time is 2 hours and includes a 15-minute intermission. A post-performance discussion will be held.

For tickets, go to universe.com/iamtheonewho

BUTTERFLY DANCE

I hit the play button on the CD player and feel a satisfying rush as drum music booms out of the speakers. I turn around to find that all the 3- and 4-year-olds in my creative movement class have stopped dead in their tracks. Their free-spirited, pre-class running has come to a complete standstill and been replaced by stunned, pained expressions.  Some of them are even covering their ears with their hands.

Ah-oh! Maybe this music wasn’t such a good idea. I find the relentless beat of intense, driving percussion soothing. Reassuring. The more intense, the better. Add a layer of sinister mixed with volume and the recipe improves. Throw in some thrashing and you have a full-course meal.

I have been spending long late-night hours thrash dancing to pounding music at local clubs after putting my own young children to bed. It’s not a social event; it’s a purge. I rarely talk to anyone and seldom do I drink alcohol. I carry in a bottle of purified water and thrash, sweat, guzzle, then thrash, sweat, guzzle some more. I go home exhausted, gratefully sleep through the night and wake up, muscles sore, wanting more. When I can’t go out, I thrash at home to my own personal collection of percussion music. But apparently, this is not the best musical choice for these young, carefree hearts. I desperately need a quick transition. I stab the stop button, grab a nearby djembe drum and strap it across my chest.

“Let’s see if we can stomp like monsters!” I say. Their faces burst into relieved smiles and they stomp around the room while I play a steady pulse, a base beat that guides their movement and steadies my heart and mind. My body-mind. It is becoming harder and harder for me to separate the two. And that, I am finding, may be a good thing, thrash dancing and all.

“1, 2, 3, 4, stop!” I play an accented beat and they all stop on cue and freeze in shapes with twisted spines and curved arms and bent legs and I revel in the simple landscaped beauty of these young bodies. “1, 2, 3, 4, skip!” My drum and I continue guiding them through a sequence of locomotor and non-locomotor movements. Uninhibited, they sneak and slither and gallop and turn and jump and reach and freeze and freeze and freeze all prompted by the louds and softs and fast and slows and starts and stops that come out of my drum until it rumbles quietly into silence. Somehow, this little drum organizes all my internal chatter into rhythmic patterns that anchor both them and me. I play. They dance. Cause and effect. Action, reaction. A simple, satisfying symbiotic relationship sprinkled with fun.

I feel blissfully connected. I am not wandering through the void. I am not distant and detached. I am not crouched and hiding. I am not thrashing into purged oblivion. I am here. I am present. I am now. I am the afternoon light that filters through the window creating shadows in the studio. I am the oiled wood floor under bare feet. I am the smooth skin of the drum under swollen fingers. I am stretching muscles and beating heart. I am breath moving around and through.

A new sensation shimmers and floats lightly like a butterfly dancing. It flutters and pauses and invites me to give it a name. I watch it closely as it flickers and whispers and beckons. It seems vaguely familiar–it looks like, sounds like, feels like…I think…I think…I think it might be hope.

I play my drum while the children twirl and run and smile.

ALL EARS

The flowers sing. And I listen. To whispered chants that murmur through my garden. To the lilting psalm of my shovel as it grates against freshly-turned dirt. To quiet incantations that rise up out of the earth, bounce off blue skies and grow into perennial promises, annual sprays and trellised vines. To arias that burst into operatic foliage adorned by colorful blooms.

I listen to rain that drips and drops and pounds and patters and mists and pools in ostinato puddles. I listen to the sometimes soft, sometimes piercing sun that warms and warms then burns and browns my now-no-longer-tender skin. And I listen to the quiet serenade of night, wooed by the drone of rest and restoration that comes gift-wrapped in the soft lullabies of stillness.

I listen. To trilling birds and buzzing bees and tinkling chimes. I dig. I plant. I water. I think. I sit. For hours I sit. Still. And listen. To silence. To wordless mantras made of sun and wind and sky and rain and dirt. Each serene voice offering its own unique harmonizing song. Subtle, quiet, almost imperceptible melodies….so different from the pounding, booming rhythms that fill my taiko drumming world.

My summer schedule moves slowly like the oozing heat and drizzling rain and shifting shadows. My body is tired. My mind and soul are tired. My ears are tired. And so I grow a garden full of quiet song. A place where I can sit. Still. And listen.

INFINITE POSSIBILITIES

The game emerged spontaneously when my daughter, India, was about 5 years old. The two of us were enjoying a rare moment together on the upstairs deck of our rambling Victorian. That upper porch was one of our favorite places in that big, dilapidated house and the sun felt so good that spring day that I found myself basking in a rare moment of reprieve. I was drowning in financial stress, pending foreclosure and an unhappy marriage. Frozen by an uncertain future, I had grown so accustomed to everything being so hard that the warmth of the sun on my skin melted my heart. It felt so good, it was almost more than I could stand.

India had her Pocahontas toys spread out on a blanket. I laid down beside her, closed my eyes and breathed. I was mindful of the warm sun on my closed eyelids, my arms, my legs….but I wanted more. I jumped up and took off my dress in one swift motion revealing the bathing suit I happened to have on underneath. (It was not unusual in those days for me to wear a one-piece under my clothes. Somehow it helped me feel contained; somehow it helped me hold myself together.) I laid back down. Oh, so much better! I could feel the sun on all those places that had been covered.

“What are you doing?” India had stopped playing and was looking at me.

“Mommy’s just lying in the sun,” I reassured her.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because it feels good.”

“But why did you take off your clothes?”

“Because I want to feel the sun all over!”

“Oh, can I lie in the sun too?”

“Sure you can!” I sat up. “We can do whatever we want!” I scooted toys over to make a place for her to lie down next to me. By the time I looked up, she had ripped off her dress and underwear and was standing there stark naked.

“Oh, that does feel good!” she smiled and pranced. “I like doing whatever we want!” I was momentarily aghast, but that fleeting feeling was quickly replaced with joy. India started jumping up and down, chanting, “We can do whatever we want!”

I stood up and joined her as the creative movement teacher in me took over. “I can march like this!” I said. We both started marching around the porch as we chanted, “We can do whatever we want!” I quickly realized our chant needed three quarter rests at the end to make it an eight-count rhythmic phrase, so I snorted like a pig and jumped three times. India squealed with delight, then snorted and jumped with me. One, two, three!

“I can spin like this!” she said and we both started spinning. “We can do whatever we want!” Snort, snort, snort. India squealed again.

My turn. “I can slither like this!” Here we go… “We can do whatever we want!” Snort, snort, snort.  The noise must have called my husband James upstairs because suddenly he stuck his head through the door. “What is going on?” he asked. “India! Put on some clothes!” He looked at me as if to ask, “Have you gone crazy?”

“No!” India protested. “We’re playing We Can Do Whatever We Want! And I don’t want to put on clothes because the sun feels GOOD, doesn’t it Mommy?”  Seeing the look of sheer ecstasy on her face, I smiled in agreement. “That’s right!” Just for good measure I added a snort, snort, snort. India squealed again and echoed three snorts back. James rolled his eyes and left. India and I happily continued our game.

Before too long my son Jacob came out onto the porch. “What are you doing?” he asked, surveying. “Why doesn’t India have on any clothes?”

“Because we can do whatever we want!” she chanted with delight. James must have still been upstairs because I heard him say, “Leave them be Jake. It must be a girl thing.”

Yes, please, please, please just let us be…we danced and chanted and snorted and chanted and danced until we were both exhausted and fell down on the blanket laughing, completely spent. We laid together holding hands, basking in the sun and our joy, panting from all that exertion. When we could both breathe normally again India asked, “Can we really do whatever we want?”

“Absolutely,” I said without hesitation and squeezed her hand. I added no caveats for considering consequences or admonishments about safety or responsibility…I just laid there in the sun and planted seeds for infinite possibilities.

My now-grown daughter and I have revisited that day and its memorable We-Can-Do Whatever-We-Want point of view many times through the years. Whenever I stand at a pivot point, that voice of my younger self calls to me. She inspires and reassures. She reminds me that I am always free to choose whatever courageous future I have the audacity to imagine.