In today's world, if the news, social media, your fellow Earthlings, friends, neighbors and even family members have you feeling the divisions between us are stronger than they have ever been, just remember, there is one thing that has, and always will, unite every person (with the exception of that Biblical couple from Eden) who has ever inhabited the planet: we have all had a mother.
Both the overwhelming love and complexities of the relationships that is experienced between mothers and their offspring was on display as 13 women presented loving, touching, intriguing, emotionally raw, painful, humorous and empowering stories of motherhood during last week's "Listen to Your Mother" presentation at the Colony Theatre in downtown Burbank.
The "Listen to Your Mother" storytelling series, a nationwide program that began in 2010 as the brainchild of Ann Imig, is produced by women from coast to coast who, based on Imig's model — cast local women to write and share stories about their mothers or their own lives as mothers.
The presentation, which played to a standing-room-only audience, was co-produced and directed by Taia Perry and Suzanne Weerts. The cast, which included retired Burbank community development director Ruth Davidson-Guerra, Leadership Burbank graduate Roe Leone, actress Vicki Juditz, John Burroughs High School junior Marlena Skrabak, and John Burroughs High parents Jules Ford, Joanna Peresie and Analucia Prather, was rounded out by Katsy Chapell, Megan Dolan, Julayne Elle, Kerry Nadal, Margot Rose and Jennifer Seifert.
As they did in their 2016 inaugural presentation of the series, Perry and Weerts chose the Family Service Agency of Burbank, or FSA, to be the beneficiary of the evening's proceeds.
"It is a wonderful and very necessary thing that FSA will be receiving support from this event," said Laurie Bleick, who serves as the agency's executive director. "It is also fitting because we at FSA know about stories — stories of families dealing with various issues and challenges and finding strength and hope. The stories of the families we help are so much like the ones the women involved with this program share about their mothers and motherhood, some which are positive and wonderful, and others that can be very painful."
Bleick — who was asked to join the 13 women in sharing a story about her own mother, and did so as the program's finale — said her willingness to participate didn't come easy.
"Getting out into the spotlight in front of an audience is very out of character for me," she said. "But I was honored to have been asked and felt it was time for me to show some of the courage I see in the families we serve. I felt it was my time to step up to the plate."
Along with the encouraging inspiration she received from the Family Service Agency's clients she works with, the memory of Bleick's mother, who grew up in a Massachusetts home that had been in the family for over 300 years, also provided her with the courage to speak at the event.
"My mother dealt with painful issues that included a divorce and clinical depression," Bleick said. "I was always aware that had she not been raised in such a traditional family, she would probably not have been the type to ever become a mother. I know that she dealt with a lot of challenges throughout her life. But, had she not lived a painful life, I don't think I would have lived the life I have lived — helping those who are dealing with pain and dealing with difficult challenges."