In case you hadn’t yet been privy to my incessant blathering about it, we had our first “Listen To Your Mother” rehearsal last night. It was an incredible experience — intimidating, inspiring, enlightening. Usually, I’m the loud one — the one who’s not shy or afraid to make an ass of myself by blurting out inappropriate and untimely comments that cause others to give me the sideways, what-did-she-just-say glance. But last night, I was content to simply soak it in, to listen to the other 13 women share their remarkable stories, to feel their happiness, their pain, their joy.
If you are a mother, if you have a mother, if you love a mother… you will find something that speaks to you in this show. In honor of our first rehearsal, a few of us penned lists proving our mettle, confirming that we did, indeed, listen to our mothers. Be sure to check out my amazing cohorts.
And here’s what Sweet Caroline taught me:
1. What Other People Think About You Is None of Your Business. Being concerned with others’ opinions of me is my nemesis. I have an unnatural need for acceptance, for approval, for external validation. But I’m learning, bit by bit, to let that go. Perhaps by the time I’m 87…
2. All That Ever Really Mattered To Me Was Being a Wife and Mother. Four kids and one fantastic husband later, I now fully understand how and why my Mom always said that Carrie and I were the two best things she ever did. Because she was our only parent, I worried every day that something would happen to her, that we would be left orphaned and alone in our Weston Village apartment. “Losing you would be the worst possible disaster,” I used to say. “No, losing one of you girls would be,” she countered. Now I get it.
3. Brown the Meat, Layer the Mashed Potatoes. I’m generally a disaster in the kitchen, but I can cook a mean Hamburger Pie — the quintessential Anderson Family favorite.
4. If You Don’t Have the Cash For It, Don’t Buy It. After dipping our toes in credit over-extension early in our marriage, Chris and I now operate solely on a cash/debit basis. I used to say to my Mom, “If you don’t have the money, just write a check for it!” I had a lot to learn.
5. Forgive and Forget. I can hold a grudge longer than you can hold a grudge. But my Mom? She wins. Every time. We all have our Achilles Heels, don’t we? Doesn’t mean I love her any less. In fact, the grudges she holds are usually against those who have wronged me or my sister. Can’t fault a Mama Bear for protecting her cubs. That whole business of forgiving and forgetting? It’s hard. Life is about learning. If we had it all down from day one, what would be the point?
6. Laughter is Essential. One of my proudest accolades was being awarded “Best Sense of Humor” for the Greenfield Central High School class of 1988. Carrie and I didn’t think my Mom was funny at all when we were kids, but she never failed to have our cousins rolling on the floor at her antics. If I have inherited a fraction of her wit, I’m a lucky, lucky girl.
7. Honor Your Friends and Hold Them Close. My Mom and Kay have been best friends since high school. That bond is a constant reminder to me of the power of long, lasting friendships. Seeing them together — still — always warms my heart. Sis and Kay, Kay and Sis… BFFs.
8. Never Stop Trying New Things. Carrie and I bought roller skates and knee pads for Mom’s 40th birthday — at her request. She was always up for a challenge, a new hobby, a road trip. I strive every day to ratchet my adventuresome side up a notch in her honor. But I’m still not going to watch “Psycho.” Ever.
9. The One Good Thing That Came From My Smoking Habit Is That You Girls Will Never Start. Enough said.
10. I Want You To Sing “Amazing Grace” At My Funeral. A bit morbid? Have you met my Mom? Fan of horror movies, daughter of cemetery owners, fearless warrior — nothing scares my Mom. But the lesson here? Keep singing. When I was little, Mom encouraged me — asked me — to sing all the time. She attended every Pop-Swing concert, every National Anthem rendition, every musical production, every local Ball State Chamber Choir tour stop, every wedding where I belted out an “Ave Maria.” Now, post-40, my voice is as out of shape as my body, but she still asks me to sing for her. It’s a life lesson, really… keep singing.
No matter what, keep singing.