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Sunday in the park

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

Over twenty times in the past three days interviewers asked me questions like:

Do you listen to your mother?

What’s the best advice your mother ever gave you?

Is your mother still with us?

Do you think your mom had any influence on your creating Listen To Your Mother?

Describe your mom in one word.

Considering the seven years I’ve written a mom blog and the five years I’ve invested in a massive motherhood storytelling project, I share relatively little about my own mom.


To start:

I listen carefully to my mom. Then I often veer off along my merry way– promptly forgetting whatever wisdom she imparted. In a few weeks time this traffic circle typically leads me back to her with an anecdote I think I’ve heard from someone else, that I can hardly wait to bestow upon her. You know that problem I had? You’ll never guess what worked! She can guess exactly what worked, because she was the one who suggested it in the first place.

Advice from my mom:

Once in a while eat an ice cream cone for lunch.

Change your shoes a few times a day.

Change your sheets every week.

Change your martini olives for vermouth-soaked mini onions. Try it.

My mom not only remains with us, but she swims in frigid Lake Superior at every opportunity, relishes journeys to far away and exotic locations, and drives her convertible with the top down on the interstate, with a/c or heat on high depending on the season.


Mom  zip-lined in Costa Rica last year. She not only works out with a personal trainer, she has taught him to love martinis as I, too, love martinis. However scotch is the gift you should bring her when you pay her a visit, especially in times of hardship or triumph or okay, actually, scotch is always welcome in my mom’s home.

My mom has dedicated her entire career to listening to people’s stories. She still practices clinical social work, and my older sister is a  CEO social worker, and I was an actress and a sales executive futilely biding my time until yes I got that Master’s in Social Work, too. Our double-helix mandate states “massive hair and desire to work socially.”

I have fond childhood memories of my mom making me strawberries and whipped cream for my birthday, visiting her at the clinic where she practiced therapy, eating lemon Cokes and cherry blintzes at Ella’s Deli when it still existed on State Street. I remember riding in the bike seat attached to her bike, going BUMP over curbs, and how as a teenager she let me borrow her expensive blouses and cardigan sweaters. She let me dress however I liked in high school so long as she didn’t have to see stains or holes in socks.

Really, though, the best part of my relationship with my mom started when I became an adult. The love changed and a friendship began and grew into something big and important in a way I have trouble describing or quantifying.

You know if you’ve ever seen Georges Seurat or another Pointillist–the closer you get the less you can articulate–the images become dots and lines and you lose the overall picture. Trying to write my mom’s presence in my life reminds me of beholding the original A Sunday On La Grand Jatte  –expansive and priceless and sunny, simple from afar yet complex to the point of confounding as you draw near. The work itself reminds me of her – light and shade, playfulness and restraint, conviviality and solitude, intimacy and privacy, with an overall euphoria for a Sunday in the park with dogs and babies, water and boats. The painting, like my mom, is at once lovely and lively and possesses flamboyance, secrets and wildness, too–a pet monkey on a leash, a tank-top wearing dude smoking a pipe. Wildflowers. When I was a girl my mom told me that once in a while I could call her Nancy.


I’m told my mom and I share similar gestures. We share an emotional sensitivity, a shameful ignorance with regard to geography, and a wee tendency toward absent-mindedness. Neither of us can tolerate friction in our relationships. As two trained therapists, we know a healthy relationship needs to tolerate a degree of friction, but that doesn’t stop our insane doppler radar, constantly analyzing the barometric pressure–eyes scanning, sighs measured, jaw tension appraised. Is everything okay?  Are you hungry? Let me take your pet monkey for a few hours.

Oh, and describe my mom in one word? Beloved.

Happy Mother’s Day, Nancy.

All my love,

Ann Maxine




Madison folks! Please Join us tomorrow– Mother’s Day Sunday– at 3PM at The Barrymore for our 6th annual LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: Madison. Motherhood stories on stage and for sale in our new book! The Madison Youth Choir won’t leave a dry eye, and all for a good cause. 10% of ticket proceeds benefit Simpson Street Free Press, and we will be fundraising for them at the show.



 Do you have Mother’s Day or motherhood words to share? Link up with us tomorrow, on Mother’s Day, at listentoyourmothershow.com.


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