March is a special month for me. My daughter, Maddie, my first child, turns 12 on the 11th. Each year on her birthday, I am reminded of her rather dramatic birth. I won’t go into the details (that’s not this kind of blog), but the magical, natural birth I imagined turned out to be a scary, borderline life-threatening emergency c-section. (But, no worries—we all turned out healthy. Thank goodness for modern medicine!)
I wasn’t really the sort of person who dreamed of being a parent. To be honest, I was unsure if parenthood would be something I’d ever experience. I heard repeatedly from many that motherhood and theater don’t mix. (Well, I’m here to tell you that it can mix—quite well, thank you). I was 33 when Maddie was born (35 when my son, Griffin, came along). And while I was growing my family, I was also building my career.
I’ve always believed that my daughter and son would benefit in important ways from having a mother who worked outside of the home. Especially in a career that I love. Not surprisingly, though, this road isn’t easy. I’m tired! And sometimes I feel so stretched I’m going to snap. But, honestly, I’ve never thought to do anything different.
Working motherhood is all I know. My mother worked—40 years with Montgomery County Public Schools. My grandmother worked—more than 60 years, first with the American Cancer Society, then the National Institute of Health. In 1946, my grandmother found herself suddenly widowed with two children under the age of 4 when her husband died in a plane crash. Rather than consider herself a victim of tragic circumstances, my grandmother was tenacious: she went to work and embarked on an impressive career, becoming one of the only women in her field. She worked as a scientist until she was 87, and passed away on March 24th, 2004, at age 89. She was not a warm and fuzzy grandma and usually pretty tough on all of us—in all good ways, though. But she loved us very much and provided so many opportunities for her children and grandchildren to thrive. The theater was a special bond we shared; we saw many shows together—musicals, plays, new work, classics; she loved going to the theater. (Fun memory: she took me to Olney Theatre for the first time back in 1985, to see a production of Crimes of the Heart!)
Oil, now playing at Olney Theatre, is a mother-daughter story that spans 200 years against the backdrop of the birth of feminism, the rise of working motherhood, and our over-dependency on oil. I won’t use this space to comment on the play (you can find dramaturgy and more on this website), but I’ve connected with the mother and daughter characters immeasurably. In many ways, I am May, desperately trying to do right by my child, driven by own personal ambition and willing to do whatever it takes to keep my child safe and happy. And in other ways, I am Amy, always a daughter and never far removed from the legacy and complexity of the mothers and grandmothers of my own story. These women helped shape how I navigate my world and I carry that with me as I parent my own children.
I named my daughter after my grandmother for many reasons, mostly to ensure their connection (and its sort of a tradition, I am named after my mother’s grandmother). My daughter is independent and wonderfully willful, much like her grandmother and great-grandmother. And, I suppose, much like me, too.
So, happy birthday Maddie. Being your mom is my greatest joy. Happy birthday also to my mom, who will be 74 on March 21st. And on March 24th, I’ll think of my grandmother, who passed away peacefully in her bed exactly 15 years ago, with her daughters and granddaughters by her side. Happy opening to Oil. I hope you’ll see it and be reminded of the women in your life whose strength brings love, light and energy to our world. And, hey, March is also women’s history month. A special month, indeed.