At the Ivy Awards, the Matron had this exchange with the fictitiously named Bonnie, mother of an 8 year old actor. Now, the Matron had already been liking this fellow stage mother very much before the following conversation sealed their Eternal Friendship. They chatted while their daughters skipped and bounced through the crowd, hand-in-hand, yards ahead.
Bonnie: "Oh my God. You are so lucky. Scarlett is so cheerful and normal. Not at all like Clara, who is completely impossible."
Matron: "Normal? Scarlett? Are you kidding me? She's a massive hysterical wreck at home."
Bonnie: "You're kidding me! Does she sleep? Because Clara cannot sleep. She's 8 years old, wandering the house at midnight. Simply incapable, all that stuff, spinning, in her head."
Matron: "Midnight? That's like the new 'lights out at 8.' How about The Tummy Ache? Does Clara have The Tummy Ache? All day long, every day, the tummy ache. The pain wanders, like a rabbit, across her belly. It's track-able, sort of on an inch-basis. I am so sick of it, we're taking her to the doctor."
Bonnie: "Don't bother. Clara's been to the gastroenterologist. Twice. She absolutely has The Tummy Ache, 24/7. Completely psychosomatic. How about dizziness? Clara can barely walk, she's so overcome."
Matron (clutching Bonnie for balance herself): "Oh my God. Same with Scarlett! She can barely get out of bed in the morning -- dizzy, weak, exhausted. That's at 8 am. And she's allergic to weather. Can't get up in the morning without crying. Or go to sleep. Or eat lunch."
Bonnie: "Clara cried the whole way here. Wept."
Matron: "So did Scarlett! Why was Clara crying?"
Bonnie: "She claims she didn't eat a good enough dinner at home. Scarlett?"
Matron: "Never has any time to read."
Bonnie: "Clara requires an audience at all times."
Matron: "So does Scarlett. Yesterday, she suffered, simultaneously, from constipation AND diarrhea. While narrating that unusual experience, loudly, from the bathroom."
That night, adrift, mothers of neurotic and dramatic daughters, Bonnie and the Matron found each other. Where other mothers might share stories of math quizzes, school yard quibbles or homework not done, she and Bonnie discussed audition mayhem, the day Scarlett spent in the closet, and survival strategies when your daughter claims her head will simply not lift off the pillow.
This conversation replayed itself in the Matronly mind late last night when she tiptoed into the house, about 10:00 pm, praying for a few minutes to gather her thoughts before bed.
Alas, her husband was waiting in the kitchen, with these fateful words: "She can't possibly sleep unless she knows you're in the house."
Of course, not.
So the Matron went upstairs to console while the weeping daughter spent several minutes detailing the difficulties of sleep without both parents in the house, the way the wind sounded outside the window, how the air appeared chillier around her bed than near the dresser, why the sheets felt wrinkled rather than taut, how the shirt sleeved rubbed just-so on her wrist, how The Tummy Ache had shifted to the lower belly, the way her hair fell on the cheek and how the next day's school work weighed on her psyche.
Of course, Scarlett also sleeps fully dressed for the following day, because putting on clothes in the morning is entirely traumatic.
The Matron made her last visit around 11:15 pm, just before going to bed. Scarlett was thrashing.
And had one moment of accurate self-evaluation.
"Mom? This bed is so lumpy all the time. I feel just like the Princess and the Pea. Have you ever thought about that? That I'm like the Princess and the Pea?"
Only instead of a mattress as environs, we're talking the entire planet.