Monday, October 21, 2019


Nathan is my friend that is an opera singer. When I went to operas with Nathan in college, he would - from the balcony - stand up at the end of the event and shout BRAVO so loudly and clearly that I am certain everyone in the theater heard him.

Next to Nathan, my voice felt small. My applause felt like not enough. I was in awe. But I couldn't bring myself to shout my cheers. I stood next to him and applauded.

When I became a parent, and I first saw my children do something - I was so overwhelmed with how awesome the world is - that a small child can just DO SOMETHING - ANYTHING - that at the end, I summoned my inner Nathan and shouted "Bravo". And I noticed that no one else did this. I thought it was a little odd, but I think that a lot, so I didn't dwell on it much.

I realize now that many people might have taken that moment as a cue and become a little more subtle. I did not. I have not. And I don't regret it.

When my niece graduated from high school -which felt like such a big and important deal to me, she walked across the stage and I could not help myself. I shouted "Bravo". And immediately, I cringed inside a tiny bit because I knew it would end up on my brother-in-law's video, and I was thinking that I should have been a little more reserved so that my voice wouldn't be blotting out whatever other cool things were happening. But I was so proud of her and I was awash in happy feelings of my own graduation and if there was any chance for her to hear me, I wanted to take it.

A few months ago, she reposted the video, and she was not at all miffed that my "bravo" stood out, but instead said it was how she knew I was there, and that it meant a lot to her. I told her that was how I was going to wake her from a coma if she ever fell into one - and I was only a little bit joking.

This summer, Helen was in a theater production and on the way there, she said "Mom, at the end, just clap. Do not say "bravo". Everyone knows it's you and it's embarrassing". To which I said "For real? Don't you want to know I'm there. Don't you think how boring all the other people  in the audience must be?" And she said "actually, yes, do whatever you want". And I could tell, the way only a parent can, that she was actually having this conversation to point out that I better keep being me.

At the performance, I shouted my "bravo" at the end, and her friend next to her looked at her and said "Helen, your mom is here!". And they had a little conversation about it, and Helen was beaming. That other girl's mom? Sitting right in front of me.

I think a lot about what I'm leaving for my kids when I'm gone. And I really do hope that when they are older, and I am no longer in the audience, there's a little voice in their head, that mimics mine.

Thursday, March 28, 2019


Being the mom inevitably involves a lot of driving, cajoling, praising, holding back, supporting, reminding, questioning, disciplining, and losing sleep. But I have noticed something - almost every time an athlete finishes a race, he or she looks up for his or her mom. And whenever he or she sits for an interview, the first thanks go to the mom for always being there. Sometimes, the looks and thanks go to the parents, but I have yet to see an athlete finish an event and give the dad top billing.

And I think I know why. Because the moment motherhood happens, there is some fierce belief in this child that takes place. Moms are endowed with the knowledge that, given the right conditions, her child can succeed. And it's as if the whole relationship from there on out is infused with this knowledge which can never be taken away. Moms have their kids' backs, even when it makes no sense to do so.

I'm not saying dads aren't fiercely loyal, and my own dad attended more softball games than I can count, and even drove me to Dallas to audition for a school he would never allow me to attend (I'm almost NOT bitter about that any more, Dad, thanks to a recent epiphany I had).

But for better or worse, I think a lot of moms are the ones who get the meal on the table, get the laundry started, and pick up the pieces when they all fall apart.

And while it often feels like the hardest, thankless task that exists, it gets noticed.

Thanks, Mom.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Washington-Loving High School?

Living in Virginia is somewhat bizarre. Unlike our neighbors in Maryland who like to pretend their from the North even though *cough* Mason-Dixon Lind *cough*, we in Virginia know we are part of the South. But in Northern Virginia, we like our Democrats, have turned our state from a swing state to a solid blue state, and we generally adopt progressive policies. So while we have a legacy of being in the South, we govern like our friends in the North.

But still...we are encumbered with reminders of the South all the time. Ed's and my first shared living space was a few blocks away from Jefferson Davis Highway. For real. And pretty much every few blocks there's something named after General Lee or another guy famous for fighting for the South. Partly, it's because Virginia bred a ton of these guys. Partly, it's because after the Civil War ended discontented people were really good at getting major things named for their losing people. I suppose at the time it seemed like a nice gesture from the winners.

Now, amidst a national conversation on race and very painful histories, that gesture doesn't seem too appropriate. And I agree with the folks who think it's time to stop honoring all these folks who advanced terrible positions. Which is how the high school near me got caught up in a name change.

Today, it is called Washington-Lee. Tomorrow, it will likely be called Washington-Loving. What's up with the Loving? It's the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage, and it was brought by Virginians. That feels like a better thing to honor than a commander of the Confederate Army.

Tonight, the school board will vote on whether to follow the committee recommendation and remove Lee from the school's name. No doubt, tomorrow will be filled with Lee apologists, and for years - the school will be called by the wrong moniker.

But, eh? I like the idea of not having Lee's name on a public building a few blocks from my home.