The Listen to Your Mother show was swiftly approaching, and as my family tends not to pay attention to anything I do, I was pretty sure they were going to forget all about it. Actually, what tipped me off was when we were sitting around the kitchen table on Thursday night eating dinner, and my husband asked, “When’s the Listen to Your Mother show again?” After I finished rolling my eyes, I said, “On Saturday.” So much for my big day. I just hoped my family would remember to show up.
The day of the performance I had to leave the house early as we were doing a run through of the show and had to go over last minute details like how to enter and exit the stage, where our places were and for Pete’s sake not to ad lib anything. Just stick to the script, people. I was more than happy to oblige as I didn’t know if I’d be able to say what I’d written let alone come up with stuff on the fly.
It was going to be a full day. We were to arrive at the venue by 10:00 a.m. and the first show wasn’t until 2:00, which was immediately followed by the 5:00 show. Before I left I handed my husband the tickets, gave him directions to the theater and ran down the agenda for the day. My parents and my sister’s family were coming up to see the evening show, and they were all going to rendezvous at our house so they could follow my husband to the place, which is a little tricky to get to if you’re not from the area. Afterward they were coming back to our house while I attended the post-show cocktail party for a bit so I told my husband he’d have to order something for dinner when he got back. I would join them as soon as I could.
The show went remarkably well. There were a lot of powerful and heart-wrenching stories with a few hilarious ones sprinkled in. By taking part in the show I learned I do indeed know how to read, which was a huge relief. I wasn’t confident of that going in. And now that I’ve done it once, I know I can do it again. Throughout the 90-minute show there was not one flub or mistake, which was surprising given we were performing on a stage on a stage. Centered on the theater stage was a raised platform where we would perform our piece. I’d been nervous just thinking about having to cross a flat stage. I was afraid I’d trip, tumble and slide across the polished wood floor, knocking over the microphone on the way to deliver my piece. Now I had to climb up onto a platform without stumbling and falling on my face in front of nearly 400 people. How was I going to do that? And some of my cast members were sporting serious heels. I’d never in my life been more glad I wore sensible shoes. Even so I was convinced I’d pull a Jennifer Lawrence getting up there. Honestly, I don’t know how our news feeds aren’t constantly jam packed with photos of celebrities taking spills one after the next in their voluminous designer ball gowns and stilettos. How is it after centuries of red carpet events Jennifer Lawrence is the only one to have lost it in those designer deathtraps?
Somehow we managed it. None of us fell, and the show went off without a hitch. That day I learned I could walk and read.
Afterward when I saw my family, they greeted me with tears and flowers and embraces. As a writer working alone unaccustomed to others hearing my words the warmth and support was overwhelming. When I saw my husband he pulled me into hug me and told me he was proud. I couldn’t have felt more loved. Then he wanted to talk details. He said he’d already ordered a tray of chicken parm and had it in the oven ready to go as soon as they got back to the house. He’d even thought ahead and ran to the store to get some snacks and soda and a cake for dessert, all things I’d entirely forgotten about. And, he’d gotten me flowers. Not only did he remember to show up, he’d also taken care of everything.
The best part, though, came at the end of the show right after we took out final bow. As the audience stood and started filing out, my kids approached the stage, and I’m telling you I detected pride on their faces. I wasn’t expecting that. Even though they’re older, I figured the show was something I was dragging them to, not something they’d actually have an interest in seeing. After a good 20 minutes of sustained listening, I thought they’d be bored. When I greeted them afterward I fully expected to be met with long faces followed by, “Can we go now?” But that’s not at all what happened.
When the kids came up to the stage carrying a big bouquet of flowers, they were practically beaming. I bent down to thank them, and they each wrapped me a tight hug. I couldn’t have been more surprised by their pride in me.
The piece I read was about the adoption of my son from Russia. On our last trip to Moscow when we finally got to leave the orphanage with our sweet little boy and take him home, our interpreter turned to us as we sat in the backseat of the driver’s car and said how sweet they are when they’re little. She had a teenager and said when they get to be that age they treat you like a piece of furniture. I turned to my son who didn’t know a lick of English and said, “No. You’ll never do that to me, right?”
With my kids both being teens now I’ve occasionally felt like a piece of furniture. The night of the show, though, they saw me in a new light. They saw me as a person. I was not just a mom or a doormat or a chauffeur or an ATM. I was a writer who could move audiences with her words.
Photos are by Joy Yagid. Check her out at joyyagid.com.