Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mitera: Note from the Playwright

For most of my life, I thought my mom was an ordinary, boring mom who embarrassed me on a regular basis in front of all the upper class Southern white girls with whom I was forced to go to private school. Yes, the photos of her from her youth were mesmerizing. She had an early 60s movie star beauty like you wouldn’t believe. But she had been just a girl working in a shop, waiting for her placement papers at a hospital in Athens when she met my dad, an American military man stationed overseas. Boring.

Then one night, out with my family in Greece, I heard my aunt say to my mom, “I saw your movie on TV the other night. It still gives me nightmares seeing you die in the ditch.” We were stunned. Mom? In movies? My dad looked at me and said, as if the biggest mystery in the world had been solved, “Well, I guess that’s where you get it from.”

 Only the mystery wasn’t solved. It just led to more mysteries. She had been a dancer. She was discovered in Italy. She left home when she was 16 to live in the city with an aunt. Her father went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. WHO WAS THIS WOMAN? I still don’t know who she is, my mother. She is a mystery to me. She keeps her stories to herself. And it makes me feel like I don’t know my own story any more. It was the realization that this woman I had known my entire life was actually the person I knew the least that first inspired the story of Mitera. We can spend every day of our lives with someone, share the same biology, the same home, but not know them at all.

People often tell me they can see my mother in me. I wish I knew who we were all looking at.

—    Maria Burnham

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