Sondheim has me weeping. I can’t stop. His melodies are tender, urgent, gracious, and hopeful. The conflicted beauty of his music is all splendor and conundrum. Just like me.
The song serenading my soul day in and day out is “Children will Listen” from the 1986 musical hit Into the Woods. My first introduction to this song was during my final year of undergraduate study. I majored in Voice Performance at Anderson University, which is located in the-middle-of-nowhere, Indiana. The song was part of a medley we sang as the finale to our last Opera Workshop production.
If you are familiar with the show, I was the Witch. At the time, I thought the music was interesting, strangely peaceful, but the lyrics I found confusing. I was at a crossroads, as most seniors are, wondering where I should go next, what I should do. I still held the belief that if I chose the “right” path, I would never feel conflicted. I didn’t understand the nuanced fragility of choices until now.
Wishes come true, not free.
You see, many of my wishes have come true, but not without much sacrifice. I put my dream of operatic stages on the back burner to pursue my dream of family. I am now weeks away from this dream taking me to a Caribbean island 5 square miles in size with three children under the age of two.
My husband has a dream of becoming a physician, a surgeon to be exact. Though the path is more difficult, I desire to come alongside him and dig this well together. I am very excited, but also cognizant of the epic shift in my normal pace. I tend to approach life at lightning speed, but I know this path will be long and steady. I like my current life and the people in it, but I also know that moving is the next step in our story.
Wishes cost a lot.
Sometimes I wish I could go back and try alternate routes, but then I wouldn’t have what I have now, which I so desperately want despite all of its unknowns and sacrifices. I love art, I love music, and I love stages, but stages also make me tired and wish I were home watching Spanish telenovelas on Netflix with my husband, or reading The Velveteen Rabbit to my kids for the hundredth time.
I recently held my son Josiah while belting through a mix of Broadway hits with the incomparable Barbra Streisand. When we got to “Children will Listen” the atmosphere changed, exposing life’s grievances. I sang each word to him, tears welling like they do, remembering all that has brought me to this moment of saying goodbye and saying hello.
The last 12 months have been wild. Before leaving Maui, I was cast in my first show post-partum, proving to myself I could still dance while singing (little did I know, I was also pregnant with the twins). I moved across the Pacific Ocean in suitcases AGAIN, and then nearly lost my life and the lives of my twin sons in a high-risk pregnancy resulting in 30-week preemies and a slow, painful C-section recovery. I lost a lot of blood, but I also lost a lot of spiritual and emotional baggage that was wrenching life from my heart and body.
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey,
but children will listen.
Children will look to you
for which way to turn
To learn what to be
I am proud to show my children courage and conviction–courage to show up in the crazy that life becomes, and conviction to cling to hope, expecting the glorious goodness of God to manifest, though it costs everything.
As long as the sweet mercies of Jesus greet me each morning and name the day good, I can be fully expectant of the miracles of God’s presence regardless of what corner of the earth I inhabit. With the right perspective, I can do anything. I can jump out of the boat and walk on the waters everyone says will swallow me whole. I am capable, I am complete, and I will always have music to give answer to my soul’s cries as I wander through the wishes.
In the meantime, listen to the song and come visit me in the Caribbean.
Kelsi Folsom is a singer, wife, mother, lover of art, and adventure seeker, currently making her home in Saba, Dutch Caribbean. With her, few topics are off limits; She enjoys entering into brokenness and offering a flotation device, or at least a friendly face to tread water with. When she is not putting on her best Cherubino while changing dirty diapers, you can find her picking mangoes, *gasp* reading, making donuts with a toddler, enjoying a nap, or trying to make sense of her life over french press. You can grab a cup with her here.