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The Script


Staff member
Jan 13, 2024
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Saoirse’s humming. She hums a lot, on her way to the farm, while she’s doing chores, when she comes back from the farm. Lately, it’s always La Vie En Rose. She’s in a local theater production, a comical historical caper that unfolds at an Adirondack lodge, and the director has asked her to sing at intermission a song from that period. So she’s been practicing.

She also hums when she’s happy. And her best friend from California just landed in Boston for the summer for some college classes and an internship. Saoirse has now persuaded me to rearrange the farm and cafe schedule, take off for two days midweek and rent a room at a pricey inn halfway in the Berkshires so they can meet up for a day. It’s been years since they’ve seen each other. It means the world to my kid. When I make the reservation, the humming explodes into song. She doesn’t even realize she’s doing it.

Quand il me prend dans ses bras

Il me parle tout bas

Je vois la vie en rose….

She’s so happy. Until her friend has to cancel.

Saoirse finds me in the honor store packing up the CSA chicken orders. Her eyes are wet. Determined, she asks me to show her how to read a bus schedule. She texts her friend with plan B: She’ll take a bus to Boston and meet her there.

Hours later, the answer comes back. No. Can’t be done

She asks her to come out to Sap Bush for a few days at the end of the internship, before flying back to California.

No. No time.

It’s just more her friend can realistically squeeze in.

Saoirse finds me out to the porch, where Bob and I are ending the day with martinis on the glider. She flops down on the couch across from us, eyes swollen.

I put my drink down.

“It’s fine,” she tells me. “It doesn’t matter. It’s fine.”

She protests too much.

It’s happening. Her friends are now in college, or going off to college. They’re getting summer internships in the careers of their choice. They’re starting their paths.

And they’re very different from Saoirse’s.

She works, too. But she’s in a family business. Flowing with the high demands of the growing season are second nature to her, but within that flow there’s autonomy. She can swap hours with someone to take time off without fear of losing her job. She can rearrange many of her tasks to clear time when she needs it.

And she’s not in college.

And thus far, she has no plans to go to college.

She’s working, taking singing lessons, designing and sewing dresses and helping out with the community theater. Tentatively, she’s begun scanning the horizons to travel.

She stares forward as Bob and I glide back and forth, gazing at our daughter. They’re leaving her behind,I think to myself.

And then I check my thinking. What does that mean, behind?

Bob and I both went to college. He floundered after, drifting from one dead-end job to the next, landed in grad school, incurred debt for a masters degree, then floundered some more. I had two professional jobs before going for my Ph.D., then turned my back on all of it, pining for a different existence.

Maybe it was because we were both born when Mercury was in retrograde. Maybe we were both just products of our upbringing — Bob had a stern WASPY father who he could never please, so he stopped trying. My parents were so dominated by their jobs that I came to hate conventional employment. Maybe it was because Bob was always getting fired. Maybe it was because every time I interviewed for a job, I was a bit too honest about my thoughts and opinions, so no one would hire me post grad school. Whatever the case may be, it was clear from the get-go that the conventional American script for a successful life wasn’t going to work for us. So we didn’t try to follow it.

And we raised our kids without a script, either.

That made our house a good place for playdates. Schedules were laid back, messes were tolerated, nature was abundant.

Saoirse transitioned from homeschooler to a member of the family business. She has a steady income and she writes the script, designing her life and plans according to her dreams. But the lack of a well-marked trail can be unnerving.

There’s no built-in achievement scale. She doesn’t get to say “she got accepted” someplace. She doesn’t get to “score high,” (let alone “pass”) or go through the tiers of freshman-sophomore-junior-senior. There’s no internship, no boss to please, no entry-level job, no levels of promotion. There’s no invisible hand elevating her through the stages of life, honoring her with our culture’s pre-determined markers of success. It’s all on her to figure it out.

As her mom, I think that’s a good thing. Her success in life is defined by her happiness, her relationships, the challenges she lays out for herself.

Maybe someday college or an internship will make sense. But right now, they’re not offering what she values. Success, for her, means maintaining her composure while singing in front of an audience. It means understanding what makes a dress from the 1930s different from a dress from the 1940s, then sewing it. It means working up the courage to travel independently. It means cultivating her sense of taste so keenly that she can evaluate espresso shots without asking my opinion, and stretching the milk for a latte and pouring a beautiful design on the cup. It means surviving in the wilderness, cooking delicious food, and figuring out how to keep the farm running smoothly. But it also means spending time with her friends.

And they’re pursuing a different set of dreams.

Living without a script can be lonely.

I remind myself that I know this. I remember listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Carter, dancing only with the dog, the trees and the lightning bugs in the front yard of the farm. I remember going to bed early when my peers were out at night, and the worried calls that would come in to my parents from fellow friends and neighbors who wanted to help me find a friend or a date. When my peers were hanging out, I was fixing fence and picking berries with my octogenarian neighbors, then sitting down to a plate of chicken and biscuits, my dog waiting outside the kitchen door for leftovers.

I was still “on script,” going through high school and college, but I wasn’t engaging with it. It wasn’t relieving my loneliness.

Perhaps the faded memories look better in hindsight, but I think the loneliness at that time troubled the adults in my life more than it did me. With loneliness, I learned to understand my deepest pleasures — Ella’s voice, chicken and biscuits, lightning bugs, forests and streams, peepers and crickets, early morning hours, words on a page…Dogs. The loneliness was essential to learning who I am.

The time came when I packed a suitcase and left for a while. I circled the earth twice, dated a lot, then came home and met Bob. We got a dog. We built a life. And we got a lot of friends. I have not known loneliness for decades.

And so I return from my mental journey to the porch glider. I draw a deep breath and recognize that there are things in life that a parent cannot fix for their child. The child can only grow through them. The time will come when Saoirse takes her next steps. Maybe she’ll sling her pack on her pack and chart an adventure. Maybe she’ll decide there’s something of interest at a college. Maybe she’ll try auditioning for a professional theater.

I pick up my drink and lean back on the glider. Bob rocks it steadily with his long legs. I lean into him.

“Can we still go to the inn?” She asks me.

Some alone mother-daughter time? I love the idea. “Of course!” I tell her. She smiles broadly. “That’s gonna be GREAT!” She erupts with sudden enthusiasm. She gets up and goes in to the kitchen, where her sewing machine occupies a corner. Bob puts his arm around me and we keep gliding. From the kitchen I hear the hum of the machine, and beautiful music….

Quand il me prend dans ses bras

Il me parle tout bas

Je vois la vie en rose….

Folks, don’t forget that my newest book, Redefining Rich: achieving true wealth with small business, side hustles and smart living, will be launching through BenBella Books this August. You can help me get the word out AND earn a summer-long discount at our online farm store. We are putting together a launch team of volunteers who can help promote it. If you’re interested in joining, details are at the top of the blog page at sapbush.com but basically, you’ll

  • Pre-order a copy of the book
  • Fill out our launch team form, which is found at the top of the sapbush.com blog;
  • Promote the book through your social media channels
  • Request the book at your local bookstore and library
  • Leave a review wherever the book was purchased

But WAIT! It gets better! As an expression of my thanks, here’s what you will receive in return:

  • A 15% discount code for anything in the online store at sapbushfarmstore.com, good through July 31, 2021
  • A free digital chapter from the book in advance of the release date
  • Entry into a giveaway for a signed copy of the book and a throw blanket from my store
  • Official graphics for sharing on social media
  • An invite to an exclusive virtual book club meeting so I can personally answer any questions you may have once you’ve received your copy.
  • So please sign up – just go to sapbush.com, click on the blog, and the details are at the top.

This podcast happens with the support of my patrons on Patreon. And this week I’d like to send a shout out to my patrons Rebecca Whigham and Rachel Gilker.


Thank you, folks! I couldn’t do it without you! If you’d like to help support my work, you can do so for as little as $1/month by hopping over to Patreon and looking up Shannon Hayes.
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