This is a part of a series that explores themes of motherhood and abortion as well as intergenerational trauma. The series is entitled, Bloodlines.
Growing up, instead of mandatory church on Sundays, I was required to attend dance performances (at least two shows per season) and offer my well-informed thoughts on all of the pieces immediately afterward. “Take your child to work day” often meant being pulled out of school for three weeks to travel the world with a modern dance company. And unlike my friends in the suburbs, we knew a lot of gay people and were never discouraged from going downtown.
My mom was Linda Andrews; her company Zenon Dance; and right now, despite myself, I’m back home in Minneapolis, fulfilling a child-of-the-artistic-director-requirement: I am attending the final season, the summer intensive, the last show. People from choreographers to dancers to dedicated students who have known me since I was a baby look me in the eye and tell me how good it is that I travelled to be here to support my mother. I look them back and think about how I didn’t have a choice.
The language of no choice is interesting for several reasons. 1. It applies to my abortion. 2. My mom also uses it about Zenon closing. I wonder what she really knows about not having a choice, when she says it. I wonder if it is caused by the same energy that caused my pregnancy outcome. I wonder why we don’t claim agency over our own lives.
As I sit in the audience on the premiere night of Zenon’s last performance weekend, my mind races. It is not that the dance isn’t captivating. It is. My favorite feminist piece is being performed, as well as the work of Wynn Fricke, my favorite choreographer. But I am here in the audience for the last time. My mom’s career is actually ending. Finally, I think, mine might be able to begin – and I take off.
I spent pretty much all of the weekend obsessing over this idea – and trying to control it. I’ve always found it hard to exist as my own person in my mom’s formidable shadow. It feels like if she or anyone else has hers, I can’t have mine. Through friends of Zenon, I sometimes find validation for this. A man gave a speech describing my mom before Saturday’s show. Everyone who has met Linda knows her for her red lipstick and “unshrinking gaze,” he said. Yes, I thought, I grew up under that gaze. I know it well. That was the gaze that met me after every Zenon show and asked me what I thought about the pieces. I would hold myself to the question as if I was giving a speech, or answering an important test question in school. Looking back, I’m not sure that that was worth so much of my energy.
Still, something underlying was fueling it. Similar to how, hidden beneath all of the noise that my thoughts were generating in the audience and thereafter, was a really loud silence, feeding it all. It was the silence of not having told anyone that I didn’t want to – couldn’t, wouldn’t – come to Minneapolis because it was my abortion anniversary weekend. This is a familiar silencing of myself, especially when it comes to my deepest experiences.
Driving up, somewhere in Kentucky, I considered making a different choice. I considered, in a last-minute effort, not going. I thought of visiting North Carolina instead, without a plan.
Still driving north, though, I again made the decision to not choose what my body and my heart so viscerally wanted. And I went, despite myself.
It was the same choice I made three years ago.
And I’m still working to figure out why.