I’ve made a tradition of playing Mother’s Day shows. For one thing, it gives me a built-in excuse to talk about my mother — which I always do anyway — but when it’s a Mother’s Day show it just feels more fun.

I also love the kind of audiences who come out for Mother’s Day shows – folks with whimsy and adventure, who want to do something together that’s not entirely fattening. Not that I’m against fattening celebrations.

When I see families, multi-generations, at my shows, it reminds me of one of my mother’s deepest impulses – the shared experience, immediate — my mother grabbing me and pointing, “Oh, Debby! Look at THAT!” It could be a cow, it could be a cellist playing jazz. The point was that the experience must be shared.

Mother’s DAY, on the other hand, never meant much to me until one year I suddenly thought: wait! What does my MOM really want??? Oh sure, finger paintings are always a big hit, but … is there something else? A stinky marigold (required Mother’s Day gift by my elementary school)? Does she really like that??The idea that I could actually give my mother something about her instead of about me — that was cataclysmic.

I remember the year the light bulb went on for me. I was 9. We’d just moved to Canada. Mother’s Day came along and I decided I should really do something my mother would like. I should invest. I should take my prize 1953 Two-Dollar Bills, exchange them for mucho Canadian cash and make my mother a meal she’d never forget.

These $2-bills were the only money I personally had. My Great-Aunt Amy — or was it her sister Ruth? Or the other sister, Jean?? — well, one of them sent me a $2-Bill for my birthday every year and I’d been saving them. So I took them all and headed down the street. I made the exchange at a local shop where, conveniently, I also shopped, selecting a wide variety of impressive foods.

The next part is hazy: setting the table, artistically arranging the food into separate bowls, selecting the correct serving spoons — but what I do remember is my mother’s face when she saw the table — a sumptuous feast of licorice, jawbreakers, jellybeans, chocolates and Snow-caps. Sadly she wasn’t hungry that night, but by the look on her face, I knew she was deeply impressed.

Fast-forward 30 years. I’m in Germany on tour with my band. I’ve left the hotel early one morning, walking to the market, when I see a flower shop busy with women, each leaving the shop with an arrangement – sometimes two.

And then I remember … it’s Mother’s day! My own mother’s been dead nearly a decade by then, but I go in the store and I, too, buy a bouquet – huge, colorful, like spring.

The next part is hazy: walking who-knows-where — embarrassed, feeling indulgent, and fraudulent – knowing that everyone must see this is a fake Mother’s Day bouquet — a bouquet my mother will never receive.

And then I see her. A woman – maybe 20 years older than me – heading down the street. When she reaches me I stop her, and in my halting cow-German, I tell her why I need her to take this bouquet. Why I need her to accept it for my own mother.

In the U.S. this woman would think I was crazy, possibly even dangerous, but my German is so bad that I sound like a child. And she looks at me as if I’m a child — and with huge kindness, accepts my bouquet.

So now I know there are many ways to connect to my mother — no matter where she is.

And one  way I do it is  Mother’s Day shows. So if you’re in New England, bring your own mother, your daughter, your sister, grandmother, aunt, your inner-mom and celebrate Mother’s Day with me in two live concerts at Tupelo Music Hall and Center for Arts in Natick (TCAN).

I’ll bring the Snow-caps.

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