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Too Much for One Heart

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

by Hilary Thomas:

The very first time I was on stage was at age four, in a show called Madame Butterfly. I played “Sorrow,” Madame Butterfly's child. This may have been the moment I officially became a theater addict—specifically musical theater. I remember just lying there on the stage while two women sang their brains out night after night. What a gig! Years later, a show called Miss Saigon—an adaptation of the opera Madame Butterfly—became my latest obsession. I loved the tragedy of the story but always thought the main character was kind of crazy for killing herself in order to ensure happiness and freedom for her son.

Then I had a child of my own. In fact when I was about six months pregnant, a song called “Too Much For One Heart” from Miss Saigon started playing on my ipod, and I dissolved into a crazy puddle of tears. I’m generally not much of a crier—but the intensity of that experience introduced me to a new kind of love. It was the moment when I officially realized I was a mom. And my life would never be the same. And my heart would never be the same. And it just might be too much for just one heart. Oh man, I didn’t even know what I was in for. Every year that passes, I look back on what I thought was a crazy, obsessive, all-consuming love for my child the previous year has now doubled in size. I would absolutely give my life for my daughter without question.

People always say stuff like, “you don’t even know until you’re a mom.” To a certain extent I think that’s true. I think about my daughter the way a giddy teenager thinks about seeing her boyfriend. I get these little butterflies in my stomach when I anticipate seeing her after a few hours of being apart. In becoming a mother, I discovered this love and security in my own self that I didn’t know I had. I experienced a real, fundamental change. I think that part of it was this volcano of love and life that pretty much blew up inside me. I felt like all I could do was share that love and life with everyone in my orbit. And in turn, sharing all that love brought so much love into my life—from every angle. And it’s this crazy, endless cycle of love that sounds disgustingly sweet and cheesy, but it’s actually the most incredible thing in the world.

My daughter has recently discovered her love for musical theater (big surprise), and we recently saw Wicked in New York. We had this moment during the show when she was “crying Happy tears,” and of course I was shooting out happy tears. We were so connected on this deeply visceral level with the magic of what was happening on that stage. When she declared that she wanted to be Elphaba (Wicked’s lead character) for Halloween, I pretty much felt like my work as a mother had been complete.

I guess my daughter got a little streak of the drama from this theater influence. Lately she’s been fascinated by death. The other day we were in the car and she began asking a lot of questions about what happens when you die and why. I struggle with an answer on that one but have shared one little idea which I do like. I tell her that as you live your life, you leave little pieces of yourself in people’s hearts. The more people whose hearts you can spread love to and the more you love you can give to others, the more you will stay alive forever. It’s just in a different way. Well, she buys that to a certain extent but is still afraid about the actual death itself. She always says she wants be lying on top of me when she dies. And she also wants to make sure that I don’t die before she does.

So we are in the car the other day, listening to Elphaba’s “Defying Gravity” for the twelve millionth time and completely out of the blue she says, “Oh, I have a great idea! The moment you are about to die, I will drink some poison, and we can die at the exact same time.” Well this was by far the most romantic and the most disturbing thing anyone has ever said to me.

"But it made me realize that for better or worse, the love that we have for each other is going to be an unbelievably intense driving force in my life from here on out. And it is too much for one heart. But perhaps that is essence of a mother-daughter relationship. Just right for two hearts. "

Photo by: Ivonne Maria Carvajal

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