Mamalogues

simone-lori

Simone reads a Mother’s Day tribute to Lori.

Mother’s Day began with a 90-minute wait for a table at Portland’s premier dim sum restaurant. It ended with a 90-minute concert by women of all ages that was both moving and meaningful.

First, the food.

In the morning, Lori and I arrived early at HK Cafe, thinking we’d get a little ahead of the crowd while waiting for our two older kids and their partners to join us. Think again.

With an overflow crowd on the sidewalk and the entrance to the restaurant stuffed like sardines (sorry, obvious food reference), I squeezed in after 30 minutes to check on the waiting time for our table, clutching the paper slip with our No. 90 on it.

“Number 27?” the hostess called out.

Yikes.

Yep, it was a long wait but worth it. We’ve been there before and always enjoy the variety of plates brought to us the moment we sit down. Never again, though, on Mother’s Day.

Second, the music.

I’ve written previously about Lori and Simone participating in the Portland Intergenerational Women’s Choir. They sing together in the midst of a group whose members range from about 8 to 80. The choir is comprised of mothers, daughters and grandmothers, many if not most of them with no musical training and a few who’ve served time in prison.

mamalogues posterIn fact, Sunday’s performance was a fundraiser for the group’s sister choir at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville. Credit the choir director, Crystal Akins, for creating and leading both groups. Credit the women in each choir for setting status and judgments aside to perform alongside each other for the joy of singing as one.

And so it was that Simone’s wife, Kyndall, and I joined a supportive crowd at the Mission Theater in Northwest Portland. What used to be an old movie theater has been transformed into an intimate performing space under the entrepreneurial hands of the McMenamin Brothers.

Arriving just before the show, we grabbed pizza slices and a drink and found ourselves at a front-row table just behind the choir director. And what an inspiring show it was.

IOC

Lori and Simone sing side-by-side in the Portland Intergenerational Women’s Choir.

This was the third annual Mamalogues — a program that mixed nine songs with a dozen readings from choir members honoring their mothers. The stories ranged as much as those telling them, touching on themes of loss and love and the special bond between mothers and daughters.

  • A teenager, taken from her drug-addled birthparents as an infant and placed with a loving adoptive family.
  • A middle-aged mother, recalling the scorn from classmates at her high school graduation, her pregnant belly making her a social outcast decades ago but her mom’s support making her feel “legitimate” nevertheless.
  • A woman laughing at the silly songs and inside jokes they shared on long weekend drives, now tearing up at her mother’s recent death.
  • A self-described member of the “sandwich generation,” recalling the difficulty of caring for her young child while also caring for her aging, ailing mother. She told a tender story of giving her mother a shower, feeling her skin as soft as a baby’s.
  • A formerly incarcerated woman boldly asserting that anyone judging her by her past mistakes was missing out on who she is now — a confident, imperfect but rehabilitated individual, with much to offer the world. So powerful.

And then there were two pairs of mothers and daughters, one of them the Redes.

Lori and Simone read their “Side by Side” compositions, each thanking the other for her love and support through the years, and then joining the choir in singing Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me.”

simone-lori-stephanie

Simone and Lori with Stephanie, another choir member.

I enjoyed every one of the songs, some of them originally performed by Sinead O’Connor, India Arie, Michael Jackson and Pharrell Williams. (No surprise that the women would sing “Happy.”)

Mamalogues was a wonderful way to spend a Mother’s Day afternoon. As much as I love my wife and daughter, it’s even more heart-warming to see how the two ladies in my life cherish each other so. How sweet that they’ve found this choir to share some creative energy together.

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