A warm-ish late February, 2014, was fading into March when 80 women and one man auditioned for Nashville's inaugural cast of Listen to You Mother. Thirteen of us were chosen to share the stage in voicing our experiences of motherhood, having a mother, choosing not to become a mother....Honestly, I auditioned to pad my author platform for my next book and to promote the cause of my heart–autism/disAbility. What I did not realize was. How. Fun. This experience would be. That I'd gain 12 new fast friends with a tenacious bond. And, that it would become, even, a life-transformative experience.
That sounds dramatic. I haven't written about it here since our April 26 Tennessee Performing Arts Center (600) performance, which drew a national record-breaking crowd of more than 600 attendees. I haven't written about it because I'm still processing the impact of the experience. One of us was gifted at putting it into words. We each came forward on stage with an honest voice about motherhood. It took courage to be so vulnerable. And, in stepping forward, we were telling not only our stories of the beauty, beast and sleep-deprived state of motherhood, but the stories of so many other others. And telling them for the first time in such an event in our city. (A city that loves a good story and knows how to tell a fine one and enjoy a fine one.) We talked of life-threatening cancer discovered at the birth of an only child, of not being a mother, of birthing multiples, about overhearing one's offspring having sex in the upstairs bedroom, about raising a child as a single parent, and pining for an empty nest.
It was not easy to give voice publicly to such a candid view of my life. I write about positivity. About the joys in what we label diversity. I do because it is real to me. But, I don't talk as much about the moments like yesterday. I'd driven from one end of town to the next, from one three-hour activity for my daughter to the next. A routine I've done daily this summer. Every summer for the last three as my daughter ages out of her disAbility services. At the second destination, yesterday, I crouched in a small public restroom slathering copious amounts of sunblock onto my 20 year-old daughter's body. I did it because she cannot. I did it like I did it when she was three. There is much that remains the same in those two ages although my daughter's body has not. Neither is my own body. I am 54 now, not 37, the age of her diagnosis at three. I feel 25, I have lots of energy, but it is different. And there are days when I do pine for an empty nest.
This was not the essay with which I auditioned. It is the essay that published on my blog about two weeks prior to the audition. The producer and co-directors had read it. And, with the same artful insight they stitched together our Nashville Listen To Your Mother program, weaving heartache and humor, tears and pee-in-your-pants guffawing, they knew this was the stronger essay. They knew this was a story that needed to be heard. And they knew I could tell it.
So I stepped foward with my castmates that night and I told a story that is being lived across this country by mothers and fathers of aging sons and daughter with special needs.
I will be sharing my Listen To Your Mother sisters' own fabulous videos, (all also available on YouTube,) in the comments of this blog post. You can subscribe to my blog for free (you mean you haven't done so already?) and then sign up to be notified of comments. I will also publicly post the videos on my Facebook page in a way that contains them, such as a note, if possible, and also highlight the posts. I will share on other social media as well. And, all the videos are also all available on YouTube.
Enjoy. We did. Those 600-plus audience members did. So glad that now you now can do so, too.