‘It’s not that I don’t like to get dressed up. But what do I have to get dressed up for? Costco? The A&P? The ground beef I mix into meatloaf?”
The dozen women sitting on folding chairs in front of Jackie Mercurio, a 45-year-old mother of five who grew up in Glen Cove, break into laughter. Mercurio is reading from her essay “I Prefer Slipper Socks to Stilettos,” about her 15-year-old daughter’s criticism of Mercurio’s fashion choices, during a rehearsal for “Listen to Your Mother: NYC.”
The one-performance show, which happens Saturday afternoon at the Broadway Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, will feature the moms reading — or, more aptly, performing — their five-minute works on topics as weighty as a white mom deciding how to answer her African-American son’s question about the N-word, to the humorous essay titled “What to Wear to a Fish Funeral,” which explains the hysteria that ensued after one mom’s daughters, ages 6 and 9, won goldfish at a carnival and both fish were dead by dinner.
LONG ISLAND TIES
Four of the 12 performing moms have ties to Long Island. In addition to Mercurio of Westchester, who taught English at Glen Cove High School in the 1990s and whose own mom still lives in Glen Cove, there’s Barbara Herel, who lives in Huntington and will be reading about how her mom, Betty, of Bethpage, “makes everything better”; Lynn Edelson, 64, of Brewster, who grew up in Franklin Square and talks about struggling to love her colicky newborn — “I felt like a failure as a mother,” she explains; and Heather Osterman-Davis of Manhattan, 43, who grew up in Port Washington and writes about her nontraditional family. When people ask Osterman-Davis who her kids look like, she shares: “For our family, it’s a complicated question.”
“Listen to Your Mother” was launched in 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin, by a mommy blogger named Ann Imig. This year, “Listen to Your Mother: NYC” is one of 41 “Listen to Your Mother” events in North America; there’s no show on Long Island. Each participating city produces a show with local writers telling stories of motherhood in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day. All shows are recorded and shared on the LTYMShow YouTube channel, which by now has a catalog of nearly 1,500 stories of motherhood; last year, “Listen to Your Mother” also spawned a book anthology.
The writers for the Manhattan show — now in its fourth performance year — auditioned live and were chosen from about 70 hopefuls, says director Amy Wilson of Manhattan, who arranged them in a dramatic order. “You want to take the audience on a journey like an amusement-park ride,” Wilson says. “The piece at the end of the show has to be kind of hopeful.”
For this year’s show, that would be Herel’s piece, titled “Betty Makes It Better.”
“My essay is about the quality that I appreciate about my mom,” says Herel during an interview with her mom in Bethpage, in the house where Herel grew up and her parents still live. “She has a very interesting way of putting a positive spin on challenging situations.” Some of those include Herel’s adoption of her now 7-year-old daughter, Anastacia, and a mortifying episode of bedbugs in her home.
Betty Herel, 77, says she plans to attend the “Listen to Your Mother: NYC” performance. She says she’s “a little nervous, a little excited, a little honored.”