How Black Mothers Say I Love You

Saw a beautiful play at Factory Theatre last night, Trey Anthony’s “How Black Mothers Say I Love You”. It was amazing to see the turnout – I’m pretty certain that the entire run is sold out. I watched the audience as they poured into the theatre, excited and smiling and hugging each other in greeting. There was a good energy in the hall. I saw three and four generations of women coming in together, young girls holding their mom’s hands, with grandma close by, and great grandma making her way not far behind. The perfect Mother’s Day gift. It made me feel really happy to somehow be a part of it. As the play unfolded, I watched these women’s faces illuminated by the stage lights as they nodded vigorously in agreement during many scenes, laughed aloud at others, shook their heads in frustration at others. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a play resonate so strongly with the audience in a long time. People are often so reserved in theatres, you watch them and are not sure sometimes if anything really connects, and this audience was very different.

The subject matter is in part about what happens when mothers leave their children behind as they seek a better life for their families elsewhere, and how children view that perceived abandonment as they grow up. It’s difficult territory, but one that I could relate to, our family having gone through the same journey as mom ran away from the despair and “greyness” (as she always called it) of freshly post-communist Poland, leaving me in the care of others. I didn’t feel the same anger towards my mom as the protagonist in this play did, but I was definitely conflicted and struggled with self-worth. Of course understanding her choices was at times difficult, as was trying to belong to a culture that I often felt outside of. My dark era came when a friend referred to me as a “f*cking immigrant” at a dinner party, prompting a withdrawal from the life that I had built here and a reassessment of whom and what I value in life. At the root of it for me, all analysis aside, is the peace that comes when you simply love the people in your life who have tried their best with the cards life dealt them, and leave desires of perfectionism behind. I look at the people around me who gently nudge and support me, and I thank my stars for them, and love them dearly. I don’t say it enough, but I do.

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