One of the greatest musical experiences of my life happened almost 6 years ago when I was cast as Mother in the musical Ragtime. For those unfamiliar with the plot of Ragtime, here’s the basic synopsis:
Set in New Rochelle, NY at the turn of the century, 3 seemingly very different groups of people (whites, blacks, and immigrants) all are living their respective lives until, through a series of events, the lives of members of each of these groups are intertwined. It’s such a beautiful show with a powerful message of equality, compassion, justice, and love.
The role of Mother was on my acting bucket list, and this production of Ragtime was very different from any other play I’ve ever done. I auditioned wanting to be in a play, but the entire process was so much more than that. It was almost a spiritual awakening. A slice of my life that only the people who shared it will truly understand what it meant to be a part of something so life changing.
Anyway, Mother’s journey throughout the play includes being in a very safe marriage, keeping house, and raising her young son. However, it’s suggested that she wants a bit more out of life. Her husband travels on these grand adventures, and she wonders how she can travel and how her heart can explore while still staying at home. Shortly after her husband leaves to travel to the North Pole, Mother finds a newborn black baby boy buried in the dirt in her garden. The child is still alive, and his mother is found a few houses over. The police suggest that the child’s mother (Sarah) will be tried for attempted murder and the baby will go to an orphanage, most likely to live a life of poverty, if he would even survive infancy. Mother decides then to take Sarah and her baby into her own home and care for both of them. A bold move, and one that she probably wouldn’t have made of her husband weren’t off traveling.
Time passes, and Mother meets an immigrant man (Tateh) and his young daughter. After their first meeting, Mother’s son declares ‘we know those people!’ To which she responds, ‘Don’t be silly, they’re poor foreigners.’ And he says, ‘Well, we’re going to know them!’ Sure enough, they meet again (after Tateh has become a wealthy movie maker – living out the American dream) and become friends. Father (Mother’s husband) passes away in one of his travels and she ends up marrying Tateh. They have a beautiful blended family with his daughter (immigrant), her son (white), and Sarah’s son (black) happily growing up together.
All of that is back story to this: there is a song in Ragtime sung by Mother and Tateh as they are watching their kids play on the beach called ‘Our Children.’ This morning my mom looked at Sydney and said, ‘She’s so fair.’ Immediately I thought of a lyric from this song (which was my favorite song to sing during Ragtime) ‘One so fair, and the other lithe and dark, solemn joy and sudden spark – our children.’ If that doesn’t perfectly describe my two amazing kids, I’m not sure what does. Sydney has the fair complexion of both my husband and I while Vinny will always have a little tan because his birth father has a tan/olive complexion. Their looks are opposite, but the love is real. Both bring us such astronomical amounts of joy it’s incredible. And they both full of sparks – I’m loving watching Vincent grow into his, and I can already tell Sydney will have her own type of spark, different, yet similar to her brother’s.
I sobbed today listening to that song and relating it to my kids today. A role that I had nearly 6 years ago still affects me in ways I couldn’t even imagine it would have when I was performing. My children were always supposed to be mine, no matter how they came into my life. I was supposed to be their mother. Maybe part of the reason this show and role still resonate with me is because it was preparing me for my blended family and the joy they have brought and will continue to bring to our lives.