|In the car before the show|
I discovered Listen To Your Mother while playing my favorite game: Jewish Geography. In short, my friend Amy asked me if I knew her friend Ann. I looked Ann up on twitter, and BAM, of course I knew Ann. I'd known her my whole life! As many of you know, when you're reintroduced to someone from your former life on facebook or twitter, you can't help but do a bit of cyber stalking: you follow their tweets, you read every blog post, you page through family pictures. During my…research…I discovered that not only was Ann the National Director for Listen To Your Mother, which she started in Madison, but they were having a LTYM Philly around Mother's Day. She told me to follow the directors: Cecily and Dresden on Twitter. And, follow, I did.
After weeks of following, they posted the audition dates. First, I would have to send in a piece and if they liked the piece, I'd get a live audition. Finally, the moment I was waiting for! Now, I just had to figure out what to write about… I wrote the piece on my Iphone at Barnes and Nobles (do you know how many graduate school papers I wrote on my blackberry?). I sent it to my best friend. Then I sent it out. I waited, and waited and waited. I stalked and waited, and stalked some more…
Iwon't bore you with the details, but from the moment I started bothering people on twitter (yes that's you punkymama) until the moment I stepped up to the podium I was taken on the kind of journey most people only dream about. I realize this sounds cheesy, but from the initial emails, to my live audition, to rehearsal, to the show, I felt like I belonged.
I never feel like I belong. Ninty-nine percent of the time, I'm okay with that. In fact, I'm more than okay with that, I've always liked it that way. I like being the odd-mom in my very real American Shtetl. I like that my cleavage looks out of place and no one's ever seen me in a pair of jeans. But it felt so good to walk in a room filled with boobs and bellies and crazy hair-- a room filled with other moms who sit at a computer all day trying to produce some semblance of something worth reading. At the lunch after rehearsal, the table was so filled with voices that it was hard to get a word in edgewise. It was glorious. I felt like I'd found my people.
The night of the show was no different. This may shock you, but I'm actually shy in certain social situations. If I've met people once or twice before, I don't know how to act around them and I start hyperventilating. I usually hide in the corner. However, I didn't feel shy. Instead, I felt welcomed. I walked in to smiles and hugs. We weren't there to compete for the bigger, better, sadder, funnier, more emotional story; we were there to tell a story together. Most of the stories were the poignant retelling of Motherhood's underbelly that is kept hidden in family secrets and therapist's couches. But, these women (and Charlie) were brave. They didn't hold back: they told stories of abuse, alcoholism, adoption and Alzheimer's. They told of their childhoods and their children. Of their punk rock power and parenting prowess. The heartbreak of old age and healing of power of birth. The wonder of being a foreigner in a foreign land and a foreigner to the women that should know us better than anyone. Some were mothers, some spoke of their mothers. We were white, latino and black. We were lesbians and Jews. In our early thirties and heading close to sixty.
A small group of us were funny—comic relief in a sea of tears. (the kind of tears that make you want to hug your neighbor and sit down for tea).I was part of that comic relief. I didn't write about my grandmother, unknowingly lost in the darkness of Alzheimers or my struggle with infertility. I didn't write about growing up with a sick mother or the indignities of birth. Instead, I wrote about breastfeeding. It wasn't a TIME magazine, mother-baiting, attention-grabbing, attachment parenting manifesto—it was what happens when my baby is hungry and I have to feed her. (Okay, it's really about my cleavage. What else did you expect?)
Where is my piece? I haven't decided what to do with it yet. Do I want to put it on my blog? Maybe. Do I want to try to publish it somewhere else? Probably. I'm not even sure if it's funny on paper. It's really a monologue. So, for the moment, I'm sitting on it.
But, I'm not sitting on the relationships I've created. One of the best parts of the show was that when it was over, the audience interacted with us. They stayed around a bit and talked and then, they came to the after party. The fourth wall did not stay up. I was honored (and shocked) to connect with Holly, Varda and Deb, the producers of the New York Listen To Your Mother. I was honored to laugh with people in line at the bar. I always enjoy talking about my cleavage with strangers.
And when the night was over, when Jo-Ann and I left the bar after everyone else, the experience was far from over. I'm still connected. I've even connected to more women writers. Because that's what we do, we keep each other connected and we help each other.
I'm not finished writing. I'm not finished thinking about this. I'm not finished cultivating these relationships. We all need Listen To Your Mother in our lives. Whatever that may be. While I was trying to get the words out this week, someone else's words kept running through my head: an old Nike Ad from the early 90's that I was so in love with in high school that I memorized:
Falling in love in six acts: A Passion Play. Or what happens when you fall down that long well of passion, of a person, a place, a sport, a game, a belief, and your heart goes boom and your mind leaves town.
Thank you Ann Imig for giving me the chance to fall in love again. Thank you Cecily, Dresden and Jo-Ann for having the vision to make the Philly version their own. And, of course, my castmates for having the bravery not only to write down their words, but get in front of a microphone and open their mouths.
One more note, none of my own bravery would have ever been possible if it wasn't for another piece of Jewish Geography. Our Listen To Your Mother stage manager, Jessica Kupferman, was the person who had the confidence in me to introduce me to my current boss and say, "You need an editor? Shosh is your gal."Sharing the experience with her made it truly, as we say in Judaism, bashert, destiny.