By the time the guests arrive at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium that night, I am exhausted—but also starstruck by the many celebrity politicos. I shake hands with one of my heroes, Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York, then race across the room to get my picture taken with former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. At dinner, I’m seated next to Joseph Sebarenzi, former speaker of the parliament of Rwanda. He’s on my list of dignitaries to chat up! It turns out that we both have teenagers, so we commiserate about how much time our offspring spend on Facebook, and I completely forget to talk about World Learning’s important projects in Liberia. By 11 pm, I’m so tired I excuse myself, having neglected to track down the eight other dignitaries on my list. At midnight I nod off on my sister’s couch. The next thing I know, it’s 10 in the morning and Lisa has been at the office since 7. It’s exciting when your work has global impact, but I’d need to start mainlining caffeine and Adderall to keep up the stamina for this job.
I have one last arena to explore. I am good with kids. As a mom, I’ve had 15 years of hands-on experience in the field. The birthday parties I threw for my son were always a hit. I call my friend Cheryl Bayer Brady, who, with two other former executives in the film industry, founded a popular Los Angeles children’s enrichment center. Moms take pole dancing or Pilates while kids learn how to play African drums or run a radio station.
“Our mission at Creative Space is edu-vacation,” Cheryl announces on the phone.
“Like educationand vacation combined?”
“Exactly! But we encourage silliness.” Cheryl was once head of comedy development at the Fox Network. “Listen, we’re about to brainstorm the theme for our summer camp,” she says. “We always do an age-appropriate spoof of a movie or play. The theme needs to inspire dance, music and conflict resolution. Why not pitch me something?”
The next day I am instantly in my element as I enter Creative Space’s brightly decorated loftlike interior. There’s kid art on the walls and a large bed in the lobby. This could be a good fit.
“Ready for my pitch?” I excitedly say as we squeeze into tiny chairs in one of the five large play spaces. “It’s called The Body. The littlest campers can spoof The Incredibles with The Incredibones because bones are the superheroes of the body. And they can make skeletons out of dry cleaner wire hangers. Older kids can do Left Brain Story. Instead of the Jets and the Sharks, they’ll sing and dance about how the left and right brain duke out decisions.”
“I love this!” Cheryl practically sings out in response.
I am thrilled that I have found a place where my comedic brain will be welcome. We peek into a classroom of preschoolers. “Hi, ChaCha!” says Cheryl. “Hi, Marzipan! Can you say hello to Annabelle?” My heart melts as I look into the toddlers’ big eyes and sweet faces, but I have to ask what might be a make-or-break question.
“If I worked here, would I have to change diapers?”
“Sure. I wouldn’t ask my teachers to do anything I wouldn’t do.”
I nod and smile, and as I drive away, I know in my heart that I won’t be around to choreograph Left Brain Story.
Back home, I revel in the peace of being at my writing desk, revising an essay I’ll perform at a literary salon that night. Waiting in the wings of the theater, I feel an excitement I haven’t felt in months. When I take the stage, I am relaxed, and the laughter of the audience washes over me. I feel positively elated. Maybe I’ll do this just a little while longer.
ANNABELLE GURWITCH, author of You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up, is at work on a comedic memoir due out in spring 2014.
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