All Over Again.

It’s all over, again.

Every year, the experience of bringing a LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show to the stage in Chicago seems to fly by with more speed. On Sunday, our fourth show took place at the beautiful Athenaeum Theatre and, while it was about ninety-five minutes long, it seemed more like ten. Add the three actual hours of pre-show stuff (photos, run-through, etc.) and you have…about twenty virtual minutes. Each year I find myself trying to figure out how to freeze time a little bit.

Each year I also struggle to write a recap that adequately captures everything about show day, and frankly it’s impossible to do so. Expressing in words the magic that happens when LTYM Chicago takes the stage so that people who weren’t there will “get it” is just…hard. I have started this post four times.

I discovered on Sunday morning when she posted a picture that Tracey and I bought EXACTLY the same pair of red pumps, brand and all. Um...
I discovered on Sunday morning when she posted a picture that Tracey and I bought EXACTLY the same pair of red pumps, brand and all. Um…

As I spent the majority of yesterday sitting on my couch and taking a recovery day from Sunday’s glorious insanity (and working on those false starts for this post), I reflected on this year’s cast members, who quite literally came from ALL CORNERS of Chicagoland: city, northern suburbs, northwest suburbs, western suburbs, southwest suburbs, and south suburbs. We’re proud of that. Then, setting aside their vastly different geographic locations in and around Chicago, they and their larger-than-life personalities are all so different in what they do, where they came from, and what they’ve experienced that one might think the tight bonding that often accompanies an LTYM experience wouldn’t happen. On the contrary; in the end I think that’s exactly why it DID happen, and it happened so well. We’re proud of that, too.

We had lots of laughter along the way, and Sunday was no different. Tracey and I don’t ever like to compare casts or shows (you know moms and their kids: no comparisons, no favorites!), but one thing in particular that struck me about this year’s cast is that pre-show nerves were at a minimum. I think that says a lot, not necessarily about how each one was individually coping with the idea of getting on stage because I know that some were indeed nervous and that’s completely normal, but to me the overall RELAXED vibe was truly a testament to how comfortable everyone was with each other. It was positively zen in those dressing rooms…and on the roof, too.

I mean really. Raise the roof. Also, we really got a sense of the Windy City up there. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Rago)
I mean really. Raise the roof. Also, we really got a sense of the Windy City up there. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Rago)

This next photo—even though everyone isn’t in frame—is actually a perfect representation of our time together. See what I’m saying about laughter and zen and being comfortable?

LTYM Chicago 2015: David and the girls
Not everybody is pictured but this gives you an idea as to how much we all really hope that David will come out of his shell someday. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Rago)

Somewhere in between photos and our final walk-through of the show, Erin and Samantha presented each of us with spice jars that contained something to represent our essays. (The spice jars paid homage to Erin’s infamous “Martha Stewart-like” spice jars that are mentioned in Erin and Samantha’s reading.) The thoughtfulness of these individualized gifts was above and beyond.

LTYM Chicago 2015 Spice jar collage

The cast presented Tracey and me with red Chucks in honor of The Red Pump Project, our 2015 charity partner. Everyone had signed the shoes for us ahead of time and while I promptly declared that I would never wear them because I was going to put them on display at home forever and ever, Tracey said, “I’m going to wear mine!” That just goes to show you how different we are when it comes to all shoes (except for red pumps, apparently).

LTYM Chicago 2015 Chucks

In the minutes before the show, I did a little bit of dancing backstage, channeling my friend and LTYM Detroit co-producer Angela, in hopes that I could get rid of some of my built-up adrenaline and be able to read our intro without my excess energy causing me to speak too quickly and lose my breath as it has for the past three years. It worked. (High five, Angela!)

The show was fantastic (of course!), and Tracey and I reminded each other several times to take mental snapshots that we could keep forever. I have lots of favorite, memorable show day moments; here are just a few:

Keesha and I had a quiet moment together before the show when she asked me if she could add Freddie Gray’s name to her essay, “Dear White Mom”, which she wrote just after Mike Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri last August. This was not the first time she had updated her essay for the show to reflect current events as young black men have been killed by police officers in various cities. We walked up to the podium together while everyone else was down in the dressing rooms, and as she wrote in the addition she said, “It’s pretty sad that I need to keep updating this.” I told her again how socially and culturally important her essay is, that we need it right now and I’m so glad that she was about to read it to our audience and that it will be on YouTube this summer (Stay tuned!). Her essay is a truth bomb that needs to be read and heard by everyone.

I finally got to tell Lyletta that her Oprah-like broadcaster voice was one that I’d like to hear at night, as in via her telling me bedtime stories. I don’t think she found that too weird because if she did, I have no doubt she would have given me “that look” and said so.

I think I will always, always remember hugging Pamela for a good, long time after she came off the stage. After meeting her at auditions and finding out how (in the challenges she has faced and is facing as a mom) she felt completely alone and without resources, we have watched her make great connections with those in the community who can help her due to their personal experience with the same type of thing as well as strong connections with these people on the cast who have had her back since the first time she opened her mouth to tell her story at rehearsal one. She has flourished through this process, and when I think of how LTYM can change lives in big ways and small ways, in this case it’s one of the biggest changes in all four years of LTYM Chicago and I can’t express how proud I am to have been a tiny part of that for her.

I was not surprised at all when David told me on his way out to do his reading that he was going to “ham it up a little”, and indeed he did. He also handled a child in the audience who found his essay INCREDIBLY funny (as we all did, but this little person was very expressive with the laughter) like a pro. He IS a pro.

Stephanie’s tribute to her terminally ill mother touched Tracey and me deeply, not only because Stephanie is a 2012 alumna and we know her, but also because she really captured the spirit of her mom in the reading. I can’t wait for her mom to see it: I know she’ll be so proud.

Each and every reading was so special (duh, that’s why we cast them) and they made, as one of them once said, “the perfect mixtape” for our 2015 show.

It didn't occur to me to ask anyone to take a picture of ME while I was reading, so this is a collage of *almost* the entire cast of LTYM Chicago 2015.
It didn’t occur to me to ask anyone to take a picture of ME while I was reading, so this is a collage of *almost* the entire cast of LTYM Chicago 2015.

After the show, we rushed out to the lobby to mix with the audience and it felt like coming home, with cast members from all three of our previous shows hugging Tracey and me as well as our newly-minted alumni. Audience members were very complimentary and it was just lovely to watch all of the interactions taking place.

As soon as the lobby began to clear, I noticed that suddenly, my not-used-to-wearing-heels feet were killing me. I had brought flip-flops in the car with me just in case, but I had a better solution: to do a one-eighty on what I said about not wearing those Chucks. I put them on for the after party (shew!), and got to “carry” our 2015 cast members with me just a little longer.

Okay, so I wore them. I HAD TO, to prevent my feet from falling off.
Okay, so I wore them. I HAD TO, to prevent my feet from falling off.

After enjoying food and drinks not only with cast members and family but also with LTYM producer-peers from other cities (the OTHER Angela from the Detroit show, Kim from the SW Michigan show, and Takeyla Benton and LTYM Founder and National Director Ann Imig from the Madison show) and people I work with at national sponsor BlogHer (including BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page), it started to pour. It was time to go home anyway and so my last favorite moment of the day was carefully taking the Chucks off so they wouldn’t get wet and then walking—barefoot and hand-in-hand with Jim—down the street to our car. It was a great day, a great season, and I was in bed by nine.

In the books

I am so thankful to have brought Patti, Lyletta, Pamela, Angie, Keesha, David, Cindy, Stephanie, Kathleen, Cyn, Erin, and Samantha into the fold (and the LTYM Chicago family) this year. I hope they had so much fun. I have a feeling they did.

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It may be all over, again, but I can’t wait to do it all over again.


  • Kari

    OMG the cast this year.
    I want a roof picture re-do.
    No I am not auditioning again.
    I say take the alumni picture up there sometime.
    I love being part of this amazing family.
    Thank you for adopting me.

    • Melisa Wells

      You should hear the plans the theater management imagines for the roof someday. I won’t put it here though so you’ll just have to wait until we next chat. So glad you’re part of our fam!

  • Kim Jorgensen Gane

    I feel so very lucky that I got to be there to experience *almost* all of the above! What a warm, fun group of people. Keesha’s piece was needed and so well done. And when someone like Pamela reads something out loud that they’ve struggled with so much, and it frees them. That’s an incredible thing to witness. And hearing David say that he took a chance on a single mom in such a funny, warm, and big enough way to read about it in front of a room full of (mostly) women, touched me so deeply. Being a single mom never leaves you. Knowing there are other men like my husband of twenty years does my heart so, so good. Every piece was wonderful, and overall the show was wonderful. SO glad I could come!

  • Angela Youngblood

    I LOVE this so much. You are amazing and what a wonderful, thoughtful cast! I LOVE it so much that you danced and thought of me. And I love that I know you and call you friend.

  • Pamela Valentine

    You made me cry…again. You have no idea how good that hug felt, coming off that stage. Everyone’s hugs, but yours was first and longest and warmest and the best. My husband, a man not touched often by human emotion, called this whole experience intoxicating. Even he felt the outpouring of love and acceptance and unconditional support, and he cried the whole show through..not just at mine, but he said everyone made him cry (even David’s!).

    I love you guys. You have and are and will continue to change lives, and I’m so grateful and blessed and amazed that I’m a part of it. I found my mom tribe.

  • Elaine A.

    This show is SUCH a gift in so many ways. As are you for it! Congratulations on the continuing success of the Chicago show, my friend! And those shoes are AWEOME (all four pair!) 😀