This summer I plan to spend hours poring over the Listen To Your Mother YouTube channel, mostly so I can relive my incredible experience last night.
I was so fortunate to be a part of the Listen To Your Mother Denver cast; this is the first year LTYM has been in Denver, and the 11 other writers performing their pieces in the show were simply amazing. If you aren’t familiar with LTYM, check out their website. The brilliant Ann Imig started the show in Madison in 2010, and it has since grown to include 24 cities around the country this year. The catchphrase for LTYM is, “Giving Mother’s Day a Microphone,” but the basic idea is that writers, both men and women, mothers and non-mothers, read their original pieces about motherhood.
Our cast was diverse, and so very talented; the stories shared included writers’ own experiences with motherhood, memories of their mothers, adoption stories, experiences as a step-mother, the process of coming out to one’s mother, each with a different style and tone. Some of the pieces made me cry every single time I heard them, at rehearsals and performance night, and I was in awe of the writers’ ability to continue reading in spite of the overwhelming emotion. Some of the pieces drew raucous laughter from the crowd, and other performances invoked absolute stillness and reflection.
It was one of the most rewarding, invigorating, and humbling experiences of my life.
I had one regret in the weeks leading up to the show. My own mother wasn’t going to be in attendance. When I breathlessly informed her that I had been chosen for the cast, my parents had already planned out their next two visits to Denver- they would be spending Easter with us, and returning at the end of May for my daughter’s dance recital. Mom and Dad live in South Dakota, and the 10 hour drive, while manageable, is not ideal for visiting twice in one month.
“I wish you could be there,” I remarked wistfully (and perhaps a bit pointedly.) When my mom did not immediately jump in with, “Of course we’ll be there!” I forced myself to be quiet. What kind of a selfish daughter would request yet another 10 hour trip, when they had already been so generous with their time?
I childishly harbored a secret fantasy that my parents would drive out to surprise me. With each passing week, the fact that this dream of mine was simply not realistic became more and more apparent. My mom had just traveled to visit my grandma in Iowa the week before, came home for a couple of days, turned around and drove with Dad to visit friends in Minneapolis, and would be heading back to Iowa the following week for my grandma’s birthday. It was a ridiculous notion to think that an extra trip to Denver could be squeezed in there.
Still, I clung to the possibility that all was not lost, and even convinced myself that they might turn around after their return from Minneapolis on Sunday to drive to Denver Monday. (Don’t worry, I’m seeking therapy for my extreme narcissism and irrational beliefs.) By Tuesday morning, it was clear that I had to give up on this stupid fantasy of mine.
On the way to the show, my fellow castmemembers chatted about how their own mothers would be in attendance, and I felt a pang of envy. “Will your mom be there?” one woman asked, and I felt myself flush for a moment. “No, my parents were just out here, and they’ll be back in a few weeks for my daughter’s recital,”I explained, feeling simultaneously defensive and disappointed. When we arrived, I asked someone to snap a photo of me standing in front of the theater. “I’m going to text it to my mom, with a passive-aggressive “I miss you” message,” I informed her.
Just then I heard my brother’s familiar voice, “Can I take your picture?” It was two hours before showtime, and I wasn’t expecting to see him yet. I whipped around to discover my brother, his partner, and my mom, beaming at me just feet away.
I wish I could adequately capture what happened next, but my adrenaline and emotional rush make the next few minutes a surreal recollection. Needless to say, I was elated, shocked, and moved to near-tears. (I had spent way too much time perfecting my eye makeup to destroy it by crying.) My brother at least managed to capture it photographically:
I cannot express how much it meant to me to have my mom at the performance. Not only had I been hoping she would witness my own contribution, but I was so proud of the show that I desperately wanted my family and friends to see it.
In addition to my mom, my brother, and his partner, I was supported by my husband and 7 other close friends who came to watch the show. Walking on stage to hear their familiar voices cheering was one of the most uplifting moments of the evening. I felt so exhilarated, and so grateful.
It’s not often that we get surprises in our adult life, and the fact that my husband, brother, and parents were able to pull this off was nothing short of miraculous, considering the fact that my mom and I talk on the phone nearly daily. But they did it, and it was a moment I will remember always.
The LTYM YouTube channel will be featuring the 2013 performances this summer- I will keep you posted, as you don’t want to miss the opportunity to watch performances from all 24 participating cities. In addition to reliving our fabulous show in Denver, I can’t wait to see what the other cities had to offer. Listen To Your Mother is an absolutely inspiring concept, and will always consider myself lucky to have been a part of something so monumental.
So, thanks, Ann Imig, for your brilliant idea. And thanks, Mom, for flying to Denver to surprise me. It was one of the most meaningful gifts you have ever given me. I love you.
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