Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Listen To Your Mother

Wearing my signature linen and denim, I summoned the courage to read one of my essays out loud. I was auditioning for an opportunity to present my essay live, in front of an audience. (To be further immortalized on YouTube.) This is not my usual m.o. I am typically the queen of dodging the spotlight, ducking from cameras, and religiously shunning all videos of myself.  Why I felt so strongly about doing this I'm still not entirely sure. --Other than the fact that my friend DeNae thought it was a good idea. And I have allowed her to drag me into all kinds of good things, none of which I've regretted. (Most recently a class on personal essay writing, taught by the amazing Victoria Zackheim.)

So. I read. To an audience of one. She laughed. I was chosen. The essay I read to her was a polished-up version of my single most popular post of all With a new and improved update here.

Then the first rehearsal happened. The event is going to be far more amazing then I ever imagined. The other stories are honest, raw, funny, powerful and sweet. And they all celebrate motherhood. Each presents a unique angle in honoring that most noble profession. I realized how much impact this can have on women everywhere. On motherhood, period. To give twelve mothers a microphone for one night. I am honored to be a participant.

Suddenly I knew my piece was all wrong for this program. Minus the riff on toy names, I realized that the sentiment, the surprises, the emotions and the humor I'd written could all be found in bits and pieces of the other presenters' essays. But there was something missing.

I needed to read a completely different essay. The one I had taken to the audition, and left face-down on the table, too shy to assert that I had one more for them to consider. This time I couldn't ignore the feeling. I told the director I was changing my monologue. She said there was no way that was going to happen. But I was adamant in a way that felt foreign to me. She relented enough to allow me to send it to her. And she loved it.

So. I'm reading a completely different piece from the one I auditioned. I'm reading the one that is not safe, or cute, or clever. I'm reading the one that unleashes all my vulnerability. And you'll have to show up to find out what it is.

Tuesday, April 29, 7-9pm
University of Utah, Union Building
You can purchase tickets here.
(the proceeds go to support women's and children's charities.)

So come. It might be a little awkward. But come!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beyond Baby Tenderlove, revisited.

The Christmas before I turned five, my younger sister and I both asked for only one toy: Baby Tenderlove. The name alone evoked every maternal sentiment in our chubby little preschool bodies. More than anything else we could imagine, we longed to snuggle that sweet baby doll. Christmas morning we were thrilled as we each opened our very own Baby Tenderlove, ready to cuddle, feed and rock to sleep!

I did not feel such maternal yearnings again until I was pregnant with my first child. As the months of expectancy went by, I found myself longing once again for Baby Tenderlove—not the plastic doll, but my own fleshy baby that I could dote on and love the way I had when I was little. Dreams of quiet snuggling, humming lullabies, rocking to sleep, and tranquil tenderness were ever present.

The baby came and suddenly I woke up. Yes, there were many serene moments with my new, very real Baby Tenderlove, but my updated model also included Baby CriesAllNight and Baby HurtsToNurse. Then I discovered Baby MakesAMess, who generated more laundry than his parents combined.  There was also the bath-time model: Baby SlipperyWhenWet, which came with instructions, “hold on for dear life!”) Then the upgrades arrived: Baby ProjectileVomit, and Baby ExplodingDiaper. 

If I were writing a marketing campaign for a newborn, it would boast: “Eight toys in one...some of them frightening and dangerous!” And, “Providing even the wildest thrill-seeker with a heart-pounding emotional roller-coaster!”

But it gets better. Because Baby Tenderlove also grows. He morphs into such creatures as Toddler DestructoUnit and Kid NeverEverMind. Later there comes Tween Transformer...and the most exciting, TeenageMutantNinjaHormones.

I’m not the only one who was disillusioned in this scenario. I’m sure Baby Tenderlove expected to be born to Mama Tenderlove. Yes, I expected to BE Mama Tenderlove: a cross between Caroline Ingalls and Maria von Trapp. Instead, sometimes I was Wicked Stepmama (“push buttons to hear her wretched voice!), and often DistractedWorkingMama (“bang head on counter to get her attention!”).

But this new Baby Tenderlove also came with accessories: a whole other toy box called Serendipity...sweet, unexpected surprises. I was not prepared for the wonderfulness that is Baby HeavenScent. Ah, what compares to burying your nose in the neck of a newborn! I was completely caught off guard, over and over again, by Baby GiggleMagic. A baby’s belly laugh is like bells from heaven!

And now, when I see our son attending college, tall, confident and handsome, with an astronomic GPA; our daughter in the throes of high school, gathering an ever-widening circle of friends, wrangling signs of first romance; and our youngest running off the lacrosse field, all sweat and smiles, yet sitting close enough to touch when we read together at night—when I step back and look past the messy details, one salient emotion surfaces. I can only describe it as: tender love.

This piece is a new-and-improved update of my most popular blog post of all time, written for Mother's Day four years ago. Last month it was chosen to be presented at The Listen To Your Mother Show 2014.

The gorgeous photos of our kids were Mother's Day gifts to me from my talented husband, in 2000 and 2013, respectively.