The Mystery of Parents

I sat in the line of chairs, laughing at a joke Sarah had just told me. The doors opened and I saw older students enter. My sister gave me two thumbs up as she sat in the audience. Everything seemed fine. But suddenly the room went silent and my mood changed just as quickly. As Maureen kicked off the second half of our performance with a story about Dairy Queen, I felt the anxiety set in. My sweaty hands fiddled with the two-dollar purple glasses I’d have to put on in just a little while. I nervously kicked my feet, swinging the light blue Crocs that were two sizes too big back and forth on my toes. As we went down the line, the speaking voice grew closer and closer to me and I knew that my turn was coming. I looked to the back row and saw my mother laughing and smiling at something one of my classmates said. Would she like my performance that much? What if she didn’t?

Veronica started her monologue, just to my right. I went through my own monologue in my head. When we were… studying prepositions, I’d do things like… My mom’s words echoed in my thoughts. I knew them, I was sure. But what if I suddenly forgot? It became hard to swallow. When I felt like I might burst, Veronica turned her head to me, signaling that she had finished. It was my turn. I shakily put the glasses on my face, and the room got the tiniest bit blurrier. I leaned forward, took a deep breath, and began my monologue. “I-I was never a super wild child…”

Everything got better from there. I went through the words that I had practiced so many times, mirroring my mom’s expressions and motions as I remembered them, and a strange exhilaration slowly replaced my anxiety. The audience laughed at something I’d said, and I fed off of their energy. A couple times I glanced at my mom in the back row, and I could see even through the blur of the glasses that she was smiling at me. That encouraged me to perform with more emotion. I wanted my mom to like the performance, to be proud of me. As I said the last few lines of my monologue, holding back tears as my mother had done, I felt pretty good about myself. I watched the ground and let the last word sink in before I turned to Sarah. I was done. But for some reason, the energy I’d gained during the performance remained.

I was pretty surprised by the parents’ reactions to the performance. I’d expected them to be kind of embarrassed that their personal stories and feelings had just been spilled all over the stage, but that wasn’t the case. Most of them praised the project, and they said that it taught them a lot about themselves and their children.

My anxiety before performing goes to show just how important my parents are in my life. I’ve been in tons of plays performances of other sorts, but I’ve never been as nervous as I was before presenting my mom’s words. What made this performance different was that I recited my mother’s words, and I was terrified that she wouldn’t like my performance. I was afraid that if I didn’t capture the right tone or if I stumbled on a line, she’d think I was making fun of her. I didn’t want my mom to be upset with me or think that I didn’t love her. Bottom line, I wanted to make my mother proud. Quite honestly, that’s been a huge part of my life: pleasing my parents. I strive to get good grades in school because I know my parents will be happy; I play sports because my parents expect me to challenge myself; I play the cello because I’ve inherited my dad’s passion for music. I do all these things because they make me happy, too, but the truth is that what makes me feel best about myself is when I know that my parents are proud of me. So much of my life depends on my parents’ expectations of me, their influences on me, the way they treat me, and the way they view me. That’s why this performance seemed so much more important to me.

This entire experience has really made me look more closely at the relationship between my mother and myself. I’ve known my mom my entire life. Everything I’ve been through, she’s been through too, and no one knows me better than she does. But I learned so many new things about my mom through this interview that it made me think about how well I actually know her. I found that, during my performance, it was really easy to mirror my mom because I’ve memorized all of her habits and mannerisms in the last fifteen years that I’ve known her. When I read her words in my script, I could hear the way she said them because I’ve observed the way she talks my entire life. It seemed like I knew my mom through and through, yet there were so many stories I’d never heard and so many things I never knew about her until our interview. I’ve always heard that the closest and most unique relationship is between a mother and her child. This experience has shown me that my relationship with my mom is certainly unique, but not necessarily as close as I thought. My mom has spent a huge portion of her life getting to know my sisters and me, but we never really got to know her. While we know my mom better than anyone else in the world, the majority of her life is still a mystery to us.

Before I began this project, I had no idea what it would be like, and I honestly had no desire at all to interview my mom. I’d had an awful day and just wanted to sit in a corner and cry. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to my mom, let alone interview her. Despite my situation, I found myself really interested in what my mom had to say. I enjoyed the project a lot more than I thought I would. I’ve also started planning out what I’ll say when my kid does a project like this for English – which I honestly hope will happen. After seeing how much all the parents enjoyed our performances, I really hope I get to experience something like this later in my life, even if it means my kid has to go through all that anxiety.





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