Kirsten Reberg-Horton wears a lot of hats.
She’s an independent landscape designer with her own business that focuses on residential design, Kalmia Landscape Design.
She’s an artist. Her murals can be found in places such as the waiting room at Sunrise Pediatrics Associates. She paints faces through her business Painty Faces by Kirsten. And, a few years ago, she spent a year as an art teacher at Exploris Elementary School where she also co-wrote and produced an original musical about a Kenyan environmental and political activist. “Art, for me, has always been a whole body experience,” she tells me.
And last, but not least, she’s a wife and a mom of three. The family lives in southwest Raleigh. Her first two children joined her family through adoption. The third was an “early 40s surprise.”
Now, she’s helping to put together Love, Mama Day, a special event that’s designed for moms to take back the meaning of Mother’s Day for themselves and their kids. It was inspired in part by Listen to Your Mother, a one-time national series of readings about motherhood that included locally produced shows in Raleigh for several years, and the new picture book “Love, Mama,” a sweet story of a penguin who misses his mom.
The event is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 5, at Pullen Park Community Center in Raleigh. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for kids. It will raise money for the Women’s Theatre Festival, a group of theater artists, both women and allies, who seek to address gender parity, diversity and inclusion in the theater community. The festival offers mainstage shows, along with workshops, classes, panel discussions and a 24-hour play festival.
I checked in with Reberg-Horton to learn more about how Love, Mama Day came about and what’s planned for both moms and their kids. Here’s a Q&A:
Go Ask Mom: You participated in last year’s Listen to Your Mother last year. Tell us about your experience.
Kirsten Reberg-Horton: I have nothing but positive things to say about Marty Long and KeAnne Hoeg, the organizers of our local Listen to Your Mother program, and am so sad that that particular chapter in the lives or Triangle area residents has come to a close. Participating in Listen to Your Mother was one of the most empowering, life-changing experiences of my adult life. I met other women who are dedicated to writing and sharing their truths, following their passions and unapologetically living their lives. I was very honored to be chosen to participate and shared a piece about the experience of being a white mother of black and brown children in today’s United States. I was grateful to have an opportunity to share that perspective with a larger community.
GAM: There’s no Listen to Your Mother this year, but Love, Mama Day has some similarities. It focuses on stories about motherhood, for one. How did this come about?
KR-H: Johannah Maynard Edwards, the manager of the Women’s Theater Festival, recruited me to help plan a special event for women and children celebrating Mother’s Day which would also serve as a friend and fund raiser for the amazing, empowering work of the Women’s Theater Festival.
As I brainstormed with fellow event planner and local playwrite, Adrienne Pender, we landed on the theme of writing a Mother’s Day letter to yourself. As I remembered the empowering experience of participating in Listen to Your Mother and how important and freeing it had been for me and the other 14 women who shared their stories last year, I wanted to find a way to extend the opportunity to honor and empower women’s voices by telling their own truths about motherhood.
We also talked about the fact that we very rarely, as women, give ourselves the space to reflect on our own experiences. We are always being told by other people what being a mother or having a mother or being a daughter is supposed to be like, but we’re rarely asked to authentically share what that means to us. Mother’s Day cards are sweet, but often completely unrealistic (and sometimes demoralizing).
They don’t usually tell us what we really need to hear like maybe, “I know you’re trying really hard every day not to yell like your mom did, but you epically failed last week and we still managed to have a family dinner that was not completely horrible.” Or “We know that you re-experience being held at gunpoint every time I play with my fake guns or dress up like a criminal, but I’m just being a kid having fun and your life experiences shouldn’t have such a big impact on my childhood.” Or “Even though you never believed you were enough, you were. You were enough and you were beautiful.”
Being a mom, being a daughter, having a mother are very layered experiences that flowers, candy and Hallmark cards don’t adequately address. We want to provide women with an opportunity to reflect on what is currently vital to them in the experience of motherhood.
GAM: The event is named after a new picture book. Tell us about “Love, Mama.”
KR-H: “Love, Mama” is the source text for the children’s portion of this event. A debut picture book by author and illustrator Jeanette Bradley, “Love, Mama” is a beautiful and reassuring story about the powerful connection between a mother and child. It centers on a package and letter that a penguin Mama sends to her child when she has to be away. We love this children’s book because it honestly reflects both the struggles and joys of childhood, allowing the reader to remember their own feelings of sadness at the absence of a caregiver, and then joy and comfort on that person’s return. The illustrations evoke the mood and light of the frozen setting, but also echo with a sweet familiarity in the cozy interiors of Kipling’s home.
GAM: What’s planned for the event? There are activities for parents and kids?
KR-H: Moms, grandmothers and adult daughters are invited to participate in the adult portion of this event. During our three hours together, we will hear five-minute monologues on motherhood by local area writers such as Aleta Payne McClenney (another one of last year’s Listen to Your Mother authors). We will then be invited to write our own “Mother’s Day Letter to Yourself” in a supportive and inclusive setting, coached along by masters of the genre such as Marty Long, one of the co-producers of Listen to Your Mother.
Participants will have the opportunity to take part in short sessions of relaxing yoga, write inside or outside in the beautiful Pullen Park Community Center setting, and browse a silent auction with offerings ranging from tickets to Raleigh Little Theatre to original artwork by local painter Patrick Fitzgerald. Snacks will be provided. At the end of our reflection time, we will have the opportunity to share our writing with one another. The last 30 minutes of the event are combined with the child participants as they share their artwork, writing and theater production with us. Lap babies are welcome to attend with their moms.
The children’s portion of the event is for children walking to age 12. Each age group will begin by reading “Love, Mama” by Jeanette Bradley. Following the reading, the youngest participants will make crafts, play, sing songs and eat snacks together. Children ages 4 to 12 will be able to choose to respond to the book through writing, visual art or theater. Local children’s art, theater and writing teachers will guide little artists through a creative day of making, acting and reflecting, culminating in a share time with the adult participants.
GAM: What are your hopes for this event? What do you want people to take away from it?
KR-H: We want women and children to see Mother’s Day in light of their own personal experiences, gaining strength, confidence and empowerment in creatively sharing that experience with others. We want every participant to walk away from the three-hour event with the conviction that their voices are important, valued and valid. We’d like more people to be aware of the amazing work of the Women’s Theater Festival and become excited about the Women are Heroes Women’s Theater Festival Season with offerings such as Goblin Market by Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon and Occupy the Stage coming June 30 to July 1. And we hope that everyone will have fun, creating, eating, socializing with others and participating in a silent auction.
Interested? Tickets are on sale now for Love, Mama Day.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.