Remembering My Mom and her Love of Theatre

Friday, February 21, 2014

I'm always interested to hear the perspectives of other motherless daughters. It's like being a part of a strange club (that none of us really like belonging to) but I find comfort in knowing I'm not alone in the things that I think and tough questions I ask myself. I found this post on Kelly's site and asked if she would be willing to share it for Life is Sweet month and I'm so happy to have her here. 

I lost my Mom to pancreatic cancer twelve years ago today, and with each passing year I find it getting more and more surreal to think that she’s not here and hasn’t been able to see all that I’ve done and all that I’ve accomplished.  I was only 19 when she passed away, and at the time I was on a bit of a collision course with disaster, making a number of questionable choices and I’m sure worrying her more than she needed (or deserved).

Those ‘questionable choices’ led to a rough engagement, an even rougher break up, and an early twenties littered with financial difficulty, job struggles and not nearly enough of my first love – the theatre.

Thankfully, I got my act together and learned to embrace the things that are truly important in my life and celebrate the love and the joy that is in every single day, which is the way I remember my Mom.  The woman was full of joy for the smallest things, and it’s hard to remember a time when she wasn’t smiling (people say I look like her – and I like to think I’m smiling with her).

That said, one of her ‘bigger’ joys was always the theatre, and it’s something that she helped cultivate in me at a very young age.

My earliest theatre related memory of my Mom was of her driving me to and from my daycare playing the London Cast Recording of Les Miserables.  I remember begging and pleading with her to turn it off whenever ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ (or worse, ‘Fantine’s Death’) came on and wailing that it was ‘too depressing’.  At the tender age of 4 and a half, I preferred Amy Grant and the Mini-Pops.  Needless to say, she never turned it off, instead she began slowly explaining to me what was happening in each and every song (to which I would say ‘why would ANYONE want to watch this, it’s so sad').

Finally it won me over, and before my parents could realize the monster they had created, I was in my bedroom belting out various Mis songs (usually alternating between playing Eponine or Gavroche, which I’m sure caused a whole host of other unnecessary worries).

When it was announced that there would be a Canadian Production of Les Miserables at The Royal Alexandra Theatre, I begged my parents to take me (they were long-time Mirvish subscribers).  I was five years old when the show opened in Toronto, and I can vividly remember sitting third row in the Alex, completely engrossed in the show.  Hard to believe that anything got me to sit still for that long.  Needless to say, the rest is theatre history?

I would never have wanted to see the show had Mom not played that recording for me every morning and night on those daycare rides, and had I never seen it, I’m not sure I would have learned to love theatre with the deep passion and respect that my Mom clearly possessed.  For that I’m unbelievably thankful, but theatre has given me my life.  It’s the source of my deepest joys, and has resulted in me meeting the most incredible people who never would have entered my life had I not found a place in this community.

Interestingly enough, the ‘new’ production of Les Miserables had it’s very first performance last night in Toronto.  The timing is not lost on me as I look back on the past twelve years without my Mom, and think about how much she would have loved to see this new version, and how cool it would be to tell her that about all the people I ‘know’ within the cast.

Instead, I will attend opening night in two weeks wearing the necklace that she wore when she took me to the Alex twenty five years ago, and I will think of her fondly as I do my ‘theatre thing’.  It’s a bittersweet moment when you realize that you’ve been able to achieve dreams you never even realized you had, but dreams that someone else may have had for you, and they can’t be there to see it.

So during that poignant final scene where Fantine reappears I will think fondly of my Mom, and think that maybe, she’s looking down on me just as Fantine watched over Valjean.  And if she is, I hope she’s smiling.

Kelly is a financier by day and theatre writer by night. Find her on Twitter or her newly launched site, BroadwaybabyTO

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