Tonight Phil and I went to see a musical called “Passing Strange”. It’s a Toni Award winner about an African-American who is trying to make it in the music business. The theater has a “Radical hospitality” program on “Access night” where they provide transportation and tickets for people identifying as having a disability. Phil hadn’t been to the theater since he began dialysis and seemed to enjoy it. Unfortunately, the cab ride home triggered the motion sickness he was just getting over after staying home yesterday. That’s the worst health complaint for Phil, because the kidney continues to do remarkably.
Zane was a little antsier than I would have liked. Although I got the general idea of this moving play, I bought the Broadway cast mp3 files to hear more of the subtleties I missed, because we were seated in front of the drums. The audio describer was one of my favorites, but she was asked to move at the last moments before the play opened, so some children could sit together. As a consequence, the receivers of the description were full of static before intermission.
The play highlighted lots of cultural things, but for me it spoke to the tension between the family where one grows up and trying to be the person one was meant to be. It opens with the young musician’s Mother dragging him to church, and one of the resounding themes of the play involved what was “real”. Those disgruntled with church wondered if anything “real” was going to happen and felt constrained by the “Baptist Fashion Show.” The pastor’s son is the choir director, and is a very different person outside of church. He wishes he would have traveled when young, but dad holds the purse strings in order for him to stay put. The young musician moves to the Netherlands and then Germany and gets in with very Artsy folks. His mother wishes he’d come home and be around his own people. Back in church, people thought he acts too white, but in Europe, he tries to pretend like his skin color meant he was poor, into gangs and guns, etc. In reality, he lived in a very middle class area of L.A. Some Artsy people see right through him and call him on it. He’s even more astonished when all of them go home to spend Christmas with their families, despite some of the problems they have with the way their families live for the rest of the year. One woman says her father remembers her loving the blood sausages as a child and tends to forget she’s a vegetarian now. His mother’s death ensures he has to go home, and he faces a lot of stuff about himself in the process.
Despite not swallowing every single thing about the Catholic Church, I’m comfortable with the church I attend here in Minneapolis. I’m certainly not Avant Guard, but I think it’s fair to say that I am probably the most nontraditional person in my nuclear family. Phil and I have the picket fence, and the dogs, but that’s where it stops. No 2.5 kids involved in all their various clubs and activities. No pictures floating all over the place about our latest vacation or our kids’ escapades. We’re still waiting to get a good picture of our new front door. Even though it’s a drastically different situation, I still understand that young musician’s feelings. I don’t go home very often, because I feel very different from the rest of my family members. I’m uncomfortable in an environment in which I have to solely depend on others the way I don’t in our own living space. They are conservative, and I’m liberal. Because of our outlooks, I practically give myself a tongue piercing trying to be quiet when I go home, yet it’s been more than suggested that I’m still too outspoken. I think they may have forgotten that I’m the quiet one, because Phil hasn’t been home with me for a while. He has no qualms about expressing himself within the bounds of politeness. Even he comes back with a slight dimple on his tongue. They live on farms or suburbs, and I’m in the big, bad city. That city for me isn’t so big and bad, because it provides a lot of the services Phil and I need to live as independently as possible without everyone and their dogs in the whole town knowing about it.
After the play, I connected with the describer who volunteered that her family of origin lived in Sheldon, Iowa — not too far from my home town. She even knew about Cleghorn, because she was so close. Although she is a lapsed Catholic, Catholicism seemed freer than the Dutch Reform people with whom she grew up.
And how perfect that we saw this play on Mother’s Day Weekend. I have a lot of ambivalent feelings about Mother’s Day. Oh I’ll be calling my mom like my sisters will, but unlike them, I won’t be getting treated like a mother, because I am not one. I have absolutely no regrets about not being a mother, but the waves of disapproval I feel coming off of some people make me want to run and hide. Ever since living here, I make it a point to rush out of church on Mother’s Day weekend, so no one rushes up to me and gives me a flower for being a mother. Some say Zane is my “fur baby”, but the relationship is more symbiotic than that. We take care of each other.
I am also able to acknowledge that I can be overly sensitive about things like this. This experience was brought home after church tonight when a man from the Knights of Columbus was giving Away Tootsie Rolls in hopes of donations to people with intellectual disabilities. Generally, I’ve tried to avoid these guys after church too, because despite saying “no, thank you” a tootsie roll was always thrust into my hand. Until I saw this guy tonight, I thought they were selling them and wondered whether the Knights gave me the candy thinking I must be one of the souls for whom they were raising money. Tootsie Rolls are one of the few candies I don’t like, but I could have given it to my husband who loves them. At least this guy understood that “No thank you” really meant “no thank you.” I was mistaken about the sale. This Knight was throwing them at people on bikes and handing them to everyone he could — even without the donations.
Tonight’s homily really summed up all of this very nicely. It was about the verse in which Christ says he is “The Sheep Gate”. Father Kevin acknowledged not many people love being compared to dumb animals, but had another thought about what a gate might mean. A gate is a means of protection, but in the verse, it’s also plain that Jesus means that people freely come and go from an open gate. My priest said mothers have a real balancing act to play in this regard. They want to give their children security, and for some of them, tradition is security. At other times, mothers try to set their children free from the nest. Children report feeling stifled by too much security and abandoned by too much freedom. The above suggests that I probably fall a little on the stifled side. But there is that moment unpacking the laundry that Mom has just washed, dried and folded when — despite being back in familiar surroundings —, I have a slight taste of the other side, too. Father’s final thought was that though mothers do their best to strike a balance, Jesus knows the perfect balance between the two.
Finally, let me point you to two blog entries expressing a lot of this. Kathy is a blind, Catholic non-mother like me, but she writes about the different kinds of mothers she has experienced in her 65 years.
Marvelyne is a sighted mother, but she shares some of the ambivalent feelings she has about Mother’s Day.