My kids – even my daughter – barely know what a dress is, let alone what I look like in one. So when I descended the stairs last Sunday hours before my Listen to Your Mother performance, the reactions were decidedly mixed:
Nick: Inspired. “Oooh, that’s a dress for twirling! Twirl, Nana! Twirl!”
Gabe: Indignant. “Why do you have that dress on?!”
Olivia: Intense: “Yeah! Yeah….Nana…Yeah!”
Lori was in the final stages of clearing breakfast when Olivia, with her enthusiastic clapping at my outfit, knocked over a ceramic cup which shattered in that way that happens when you absolutely, positively have to be out the door – like 5 minutes ago. Calculating the pros and cons of leaving Lori to do clean up (definitely con…like, stony-silence-sleep-on-the-couch con) versus driving like a maniac to avoid being late for rehearsal (still a con…but Melissa and Tracey seemed reasonable enough), I opted for the she-devil I knew and squatted on the floor – in my pretty Spring dress – to pick up the shards that eluded the broom.
“Where are you going, Nana,” Nick asked as I brushed the last bits into the garbage.
“I’m going to tell stories about our family.”
“Can I come?”
I had thought about taking the kids – making this family story a family affair – for about 5 seconds. Then I remembered every disastrous outing we’d ever taken. Why, just the day before we had fished Nick out of Lake Michigan when he chased after a Frisbee and then just disappeared below the waves behind the Planetarium. All we could see was his Diego rescue pack floating towards the sand.
“When you are older, kiddo.” And less accident-prone.
“Will you tell us a story when you come home?”
“Of course, I will, sweetheart. I will always have stories to share with you.”
The story I shared on Sunday was one I have told before – how we started our family and the many ups and downs that define the adoption process. But what amazes and humbles me each time is what happens after the story, when what begins as one-to-many becomes one-to-one:
“I really enjoyed your story. I was adopted…”
“My brother and sister-in-law and going through the process. I had no idea…”
“I placed a baby for adoption 30 years ago. I never heard the other side…”
Every time we say, “let me tell you what happened to me” we invite others to do the same, whether it is on a stage before an audience of strangers or in a coffee shop with a close friend. We create a common place – a sacred space – to connect and share the experiences that make us all so very human.
There is always love.
Listen to Your Mother was a labor of love, and most fitting for Mother’s Day. Thank you to Ann Imig, Melisa Wells, Tracey Becker, and the talented women I shared the stage with on Sunday. And of course, to my family, without whom I would have no stories to tell…well, not interesting ones anyway.
We created something magical last weekend, and I most grateful to have been a part of it.
Photo credit: Sabrina Luster Persico
* An interview with Ann Imig, the founder of Listen to Your Mother, along with interviews with the Chicago cast – including myself – will be on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Friday 5/10 (Yes, that’s today) at 5:30 CDT/6:30 EDT.
*All of the stories will be available on YouTube this summer.