(All photos courtesy of @Balee Images LLC. Brandi from Balee Images is incredible, as you can see from the photos. She’s not only good, but had the perfect photographer presence, offering just the right amount of direction, ease, stealth, and kind zhooshing when we needed it—”we,” as in me, my hair, and my scarf who were refusing to cooperate for group and head shots.)

When I was around 10, we went to a May family reunion in the small town of Morley, Missouri, where my Grandpa grew up. Every morning we visited the Morley Cafe, where I dug into my roots and ordered the most delicious buttery biscuits and gravy. While I was licking my plate clean each day, I noticed a group of men that included a few of my great uncles, who ate at the same table of the Morley Cafe every morning. We learned that they gathered there every day, early, and sat and told stories. In fact, they were called “The Liar’s Club” maybe because they exhausted all their real stories after a while, or maybe because they tried to outdo each other and subscribed to my favorite philosophy: never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Either way, they told stories, they did it every morning, and these and those delicious biscuits and gravy are my memories and roots.

My Grandpa and his brothers and sisters were all excellent story tellers. One of my favorite memories from that trip was grabbing lawn chairs and blankets, circling up on a grassy lawn around whichever wisest-generation May was in the spotlight in the moment, and listening to whichever story they had to tell.

I was thinking of this because yesterday I enjoyed a satisfying modern day equivalent. A few months ago I submitted an essay, auditioned, and was lucky enough to be chosen for Chicago’s Listen To Your Mother Show. (Guys, the title alone…right?) In the show, mothers or people who have mothers (I assume you, reader, fall into one of those categories), gather to read their own stories about being a mom or having one. It’s a celebration of Motherhood, perfectly timed to be put on the week before Mother’s Day. We had our first read through yesterday, which was our chance to meet each other and then hear the stories for the first time, as attendees will on the show day.

I had done my share of online stalking of these people when the cast list was released. (Okay, I had done more than my share. As they each walked into the room, I knew their names, their general bio, and had probably read a few things they had written. Don’t worry—I stopped short of their Mothers’ maiden names, the street they grew up on, and their first vehicle make and model. I could not hack their bank accounts.) But I did know a healthy amount—because I wanted to remember names, because I am excited to be in the show and want to know about my comrades, and because I wanted to make the first practice even more fun and take a guess at what their stories would be before the read-through. It was very satisfying to have these cyber-humans, these bio-beings, these Facebook faces enter the room, in the flesh. (I felt a little like the kid in Hook, who grabs Robin Williams’s face and morphs it into a smile, saying, “Oh zer you are, Peter!” I promise I didn’t do this to any of the cast members, tempting as it was—even though one is named Pete. I’m telling you—self-control matters.)

We met, we mingled, we sat, and I glanced around our circle of nervous energy. I couldn’t believe it was happening. These people I had very-sanely-and-in-a-non-creepy-way-(I-think) stalked were all in the same room, and the first run through of the show began.






We laughed, we cried—it moved me, Bob. And a funny thing happened in the 90 minutes the show took. I didn’t realize it as it was happening until I looked around the room after the last story was read. Suddenly, I knew these people. And not in a surface level, really-not-crazy-I-swear online bio way anymore. They had gifted me with a slice of who they were, with their words, with one story—and with that gift came a sense of knowing. This knowing happened because in 2-5 minutes each, they had opened up about one small piece of their lives. But that statement actually isn’t true. It wasn’t small. It was big. It was what they decided they would read about if they were given a mic and an audience.  In just one short story, I knew them—and I think the magical thing, this thing that was bigger than just the words they said, this thing that was taking place above reality—was that in hearing their stories, I knew something else about myself, about being moms, about having a mom, about being human. I knew them, because they were me.

I am telling you this because I think you should go. I think you should go to see Listen To Your Mother in Chicago on May 1, 2016. I think you should go because one to three things will happen.

1. You will experience a sense (as I did) of knowing more about yourself through other people’s stories. You will know more about being a mother, having a mother, being a person with feelings and empathy and a sense of connection. You will ponder what your own story that you might share if given a mic and a podium would be. And something about our connectedness as humans and what is good in life will slide into place, whether just for the duration of the show or for weeks and months after you leave with your head full of these other people’s stories.

2. You will be thoroughly entertained. I had all the feels yesterday, guys. I wept as publicly as I would allow myself in a room of people that I was just getting to know. I laughed incredibly loud in a way that—well, let’s be real, I have no control over the loudness of my laugh in any situation. The producers select stories and put it together like composers—they create a symphony of emotions with all the crescendos and some dissonance and only the best notes. They say that they agonize over choices they have to make in picking pieces—sometimes they have to get rid of some of the best—because they are building a show that works all together. Because of that, it’s a highly entertaining 90 minutes.

3. You will have a fun day with girlfriends, or your husband, or whoever you want to enjoy a Sunday with. You will get a sitter, get a day away from home, get a bite somewhere nearby before or after. You will enjoy doing something different from the daily. You will not look at your husband and wonder if he is taking the kids to the playground while he looks at you wondering if you are taking the kids to the playground—both of you tired of your daughter’s 5 million excuses that bring her out of her room at quiet time, like “I’m hungry” and “I can’t find my toy” and “What is that piece of fuzz that’s on the ground by you?”, tired of telling her it’s only been 5 minutes, and now again only 5 more, and there is still a lot of time until quiet time is over. You need a break. You deserve a break. Grab a friend and take what’s yours!

So here’s the show and ticket info:

What: Listen to Your Mother Chicago
When: Sunday, May 1, 2 PM
Where: Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave, Chicago, IL
Cost: $21 before March 31 (earlybird), $24 after March 31
Purchase tickets here.
And if you’re not local, here’s the Listen to Your Mother general show info. It runs in 41 cities across the country and even Canada, all around the same time, all 1 time only. Find one near you and enjoy!

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