The other day my six year old asked me to read him my piece (a slightly modified version of this post) from Austin’s 2012 production of Listen to Your Mother. He sat quietly, and when I finished reading he said, good. Nothing more. Except for this:

Why do we have hairs in our noses?

(Just in case you didn’t click the link up there, I’ll give you this: There is no mention of nose hair in the piece I read.)

Uhhhhh. Well, I think the hairs trap dirt and crud so that it doesn’t get into our heads, I offer. I give him a hug and start to stand up. Teaching moment complete.

Does the crud turn into boogers?

I guess so.

Since our noses and mouths are all kind of connected, do we ever swallow boogers?

I tell him that’s a very real possibility. It’s time to get ready for bed, so I start shooing him in the direction of his tootbrush and pajamas.

Oh, man. Then we’d have to poop out those boogers. Booger poop – now that is funny stuff. You know mom, you should have written about booger poop for your show, then everyone would really laugh instead of just sitting there while you read, like I did.

Children: the cure for delusions of grandeur.

And I suppose booger poop could have been a huge hit on Sunday, when I took the stage with a cast of Austin writers. But as sage as my son’s advice was, we didn’t need it. The show already had something for everyone.

People told me, and other cast members, after the show that they experienced so many emotions that afternoon. And everyone had their own favorite moment. We’d been told that was the case last year, that each piece resonated differently, finding a fit somewhere in the audience. And while that made perfect sense to me – logically, anyway – before the show, it wasn’t until I sat in the theater that I felt the audience connecting. I could feel them reacting with a laugh here, a sniffle there; at times, it seemed like there was a physical link between the reader and certain audience members.

Bizarre. And wonderful.

I’m an incredibly visual person, and an introverted one at that. I always thought the written word was sufficient, sitting there on its page. And it is. It is, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that, well, reading those words out loud, or listening to someone else read, changes written words. It allows the words to wiggle into spots they couldn’t reach before.

So I’m here to tell you, seek out opportunities to share your words and to listen to other people do the same. Not unlike how the crud trapped in our nose hairs becomes something else entirely, taking words from your head to the page to the stage changes them forever.

Thankfully, words become something much, much more beautiful than booger poop.


Thank you, Ann Imig, Wendi Aarons, Liz McGuire for bringing Listen to Your Mother to Austin. And thank you to my family and friends who supported me through this adventure.