Imagine the most loving, honest conversation you’ve ever had with a best friend and multiply that feeling of connection a thousand times and you could be me, last Thursday at the Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) reading in Minneapolis. Visiting the city, I gave myself a pre-mother’s day treat, attending LTYM for the first time. Among a packed audience, I was taken in as each of the 13 authors performed her well-crafted vignette one by one giving a kaleidoscopic view into motherhood: the complexity, diversity, and humor.
Every story stood out—the experience of simultaneous triplets, the loss of an infant, a mother breaking her ankle on the troll bridge at the miniature golf course—each told by the author herself. The 13 performances were honest, authentic, and perfectly rendered.
Founded by Ann Imig in 2010, to expand opportunities for women’s voices, LTYM is a series of staged readings in celebration of Mother’s Day that now takes place in 32 cities nationwide. The Minneapolis show was produced this year by two Brain, Child writers Tracy Morrison and Galit Breen (along with the talented Vikki Reich) and Brain, Child author Claire DeBerg who read from Choosing Gloria, which was first published in Brain, Child in Fall 2013.
Tracy, who also performed (tasting small bites of Hostess Ho-Hos between lines for effect) read from her hilarious, yet poignant piece, “The Mommy Wars”:
“I stand here today as a survivor. I was exclusively formula fed as a baby. I never co-slept with my mom. I watched entirely too many episodes of The Brady Bunch and The Love Boat, and did not eat anything organic until I was 25. We enjoyed pre-packed Hostess desserts and red Kool-Aid by the gallons. I come from divorced parents who both worked full-time, enforcing a childhood at that time that was labeled “latch key” and would now be called illegal—please call CPS.”
She concluded with a forget-the-mommy-wars call to action, that I think we can all learn from:
“I thank my mom for making sure these (Ho-Hos) were always in the snack cabinet and not worrying about what others thought. She and others mothered without a manual, and I hope without a worry of whether they were doing it right, without comparison, without guilt, and without regret…So I’m taking a lesson from my mother and her generation and believe it’s time we make the mommy wars go away by ignoring them, because they truthfully don’t exist if we just focus on doing what we need to do for our own families…”
Tracy’s reading—all the readings of course—got me thinking about my own mothering experiences with my five children, as well as my experience of having been mothered. I left the theater, my eyes still wet, saying goodbye to strangers and friends, all the same really, bound by the common denominator of being mothers.
I went back to my hotel room (I was visiting the city for the first time) and of course I thought of the stories behind my life; the narratives that weave together to make up my reality. How I’ve written so much about my children, and how grateful I am for that. And I thought of my mother telling her stories about me, my ladybug first-day-of-preschool dress, my abhorrence of meatloaf since the age of three. And how now my mother, suffering from dementia, cannot tell the stories any more. Only fragments. I thought more about how storytelling transcends time and what happens when that power is lost, what becomes of my childhood if my mother can’t remember it.
So I thank Ann for creating such an event, and all the readers, for telling their stories—without pretense or judgment. Stories that make me feel less alone in my work to raise good kids, and help me feel less anxious about what I’ve done right or wrong.
A night full of emotions indeed. My own perspectives shifting with every reading, the lenses of who I have been and who I will be. All for the telling.