I went back to Alexandria, Virginia to do a reading and signing at the Barnes & Noble, on my birthday. I stood in front of first friends, neighbors, teachers, cast mates, classmates, teammates and even my former principal, who is 93 but still able to reminisce. As I spoke, my judgment voice screamed, “Shhh! You’re ruining it.” I’ve been delivering speeches, performing monologues and facilitating dialog for years. Years! It began here so why was it so difficult? Why was I searching for and tripping over my words? Why was I choked up and inarticulate? Was it because this is home? I’ve made this trip back a hundred times. As I read from the chapters on my childhood I referenced my birth, the labor to which began in spitting distance from this bookstore that didn’t exist back then. I spoke of my mom’s aha moment when she knew she was pregnant. The restaurant my parents celebrated in was still standing and again, mere blocks from where I was reading. I recounted throwing table cloths on the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front yard of our home and and gave a shout out to our then realtor. He was in the audience with his wife.
Then it came time to talk of the miracle, and I just lost my mojo.
I couldn’t speak to the miracle people pay to see, the miracle that’s been documented and celebrated worldwide as I stood in front of these people who raised me and shaped who I would become. Aside from being Clair Huxtable/Phylicia Rashad, my miracle/dream/goal was to live and breathe as myself, harness my skills, be elevated by them and paid for them and in turn help those less fortunate. I was doing that, no? Still, I hadn’t fully experienced being Kate, as is, all grown up in my hometown. And it was happening. It took my breath away. My body felt small like I was playing dress-up in one moment, fully cognizant as an adult the next. Flashes of my life’s experiences stood before me: learning to ride a bike, twirling baton, playing piano, scoring a goal, numerous dance routines, Christmas parties and then the pain of being torn away from all of the innocence and joy to move over an ocean, face cancer, grow up without my people. It was very trippy. There were no words to fully express the magnitude of my reality. Yet, amidst all the ‘stop sucking’ jingle that repeated in my head, I faced my people – and they will always be my people — more empowered and grateful then I’ve ever been before. After all these years I could, miracle aside, miracle believed or not believed in, be celebrated for simply existing. We don’t do that enough as humans, celebrate each other just because. We need to.
This Fall and heading into next year I’ll be celebrating my origin story and 25 years in remission! If you’d like me to come to your hometown and learn more about you, your origins and what you want to be celebrated for, please send me an email and we’ll start the conversation.
Thank you to Barnes&Noble Potomac Yard, Headmaster Baytosh and the ACDS family and to all of you in the Rosemont neighborhood and beyond.
Kate D. Mahoney is a professional storyteller, actorvist and author who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a speaking engagement.