(Pssst... this is my 200th post. That's kinda cool.)
My mom is a born performer. If you spend 5 minutes with her, you see it. I don't know exactly where it comes from. While both of her parents were sharp and funny, neither of them had any inclination for the stage... as far as I know. Talking to her classmates at a high school reunion many years ago, I learned she was pretty much hilarious all the time growing up. She was adored for her musical gifts and her stage presence.
There was one small (but made famous by mom) incident of a cast freezing on stage during a play. An an actor dropped a line and everyone froze. Mom, also panicking, said "Tain't my turn!" There's also the myth of being so nervous she peed her pants on stage, but I still wonder about the veracity of that one.
When she was in college at the Crane School of Music, she was in the show "Little Mary Sunshine". In the audience was a producer from New York City. He thought Mom was vocally outstanding and hilarious ("the next Ethel Merman" or something of that nature) and wanted her to come to New York. I swear, she could have been Carol Burnett. But, Mom refused because she knew, as her mother told her, if you are an actress, you can't have children. It was 1961 or '62.... SO close to the Women's Movement... but not close enough!
So, she continued to sing, got her degree in music education, and returned the Candor-area to teach and direct musicals. After she started having kids, she stayed home with us and began directing community theater shows.
My favorite picture of my Mom (sadly, not digitized) is from when she is about my age, 37. It's a profile shot of her with a huge grin (or maybe her mouth is open slightly because she's singing?) and she is a wearing a Washington Senators baseball uniform. For those of you who are not versed in 1950s musical theater, she is conducting the pit band for the show "Damn Yankees".... and clearly loving it! This was completely normal for me to see as a kid. It's just what Mom did. I can't think of a picture where she looks more happy and alive.
And I have a huge new appreciation for it now. At that point Mom was the parent of six kids ages 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 13. To say that we were an easy-to-care-for lot would be, ummm, well, a big fat lie. My dad, as you may have read yesterday, worked insane hours (6 days a week, from scary o'clock until well after dark). She was managing the declining (physical and mental) health of her mother-in-law who lived next door. And, given that I was 5 and not privy lots of things, I'm sure there were scores of other bumps in her road.
I can't fathom how she did it all, but I'm so glad she did. Thanks to my mom, I was on stage for the first time in "Li'l Abner" when I was 2 or 3 years old. I was in the "Joe Hardy Fan Club" at age 5. In 6th grade I got to play the youngest daughter in "Fiddler on the Roof". In 7th grade I was a River City Kid in "Music Man". She produced "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" when I was in 9th grade, and while I was not in the show, she let me fill in during rehearsals for the Narrator (which happened to be Polly... if you know my blog you know how special THAT is...) which boosted my confidence remarkably. In 11th grade she did "Peter Pan" and I got to play Peter.
(This is the last show my mom directed, "Smoke on the Mountain: The Reunion". Polly and my Dad are in this shot.)
Nowadays whenever I am in a show, Mom makes a point of making the 8-hour trip to my house for Tech Week and opening weekend. It is SUCH a relief to have her here, not only to help me keep the house running and put dinner on the stove, but to talk about the show. With fresh eyes, she notices things that I don't see. And often she notices things I HAVE seen a hundred times which have been driving me crazy but are out of my control. There is NOTHING like your mama when you need some confidence and a fan. (And a load of laundry folded...)
I just got some disappointing news about an audition. Not end-of-the-world news, but "aww, geeze, I don't feel like I really got a chance" news. I sure wish that I, a 37-year-old Mom, could sit down and have a glass of wine with the 37-year-old Mom that was my mom then. Just before dispensing meds and guiding her mother-in-law back to her own house.... and just after struggling with six kids about homework and clean rooms and not fighting... and right around the time she was putting in the 5th load of laundry and making dinner... Yeah, somewhere in there I'm sure she would have said something very funny to cheer me up!