Putting the mom in ‘Mamma Mia’

A student's story

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed about having a lead in the school musical. This year, I was fortunate enough to be cast as Donna, the mother in “Mamma Mia.”

In the musical, Donna and her daughter, Sophie, have a great mother-daughter relationship. My mother and I don’t have that kind of relationship. So as I prepare to become this mother who is very close with her daughter, I am forced to evaluate my own life.

I was 7-years-old when my mom left. Old enough to remember my dad begging her to change.

“At least for the kids’ sake,” he pleaded. “They’ll get over it,” was all she said before she left.

Growing up, my dad did everything for my brother and me. He cheered for us at sporting events, sat through hours of voice lessons and packed our lunches the night before school.

He even does the things for me that moms usually do. He gives me advice on boys, takes me shopping for new clothes and checks my lipstick to make sure it’s perfect before winter formal.

It has been 12 years since my mom left us, and I have come to learn that her decision to leave is not my fault. But sometimes, for example, as I prepare to play the mother “Mamma Mia,” I still wonder about her.

In the musical, my daughter makes the decision, on her own, to try to find her dad and involve him in her life. I wonder if I would have been more suited to play that part. That I can relate to these days.

I’m certainly at the age where I could very easily search for my mother if I wanted to. It’s easy to imagine her walking into my room, sitting down on my bed and talking with me at night or helping me do my hair for prom; but I’m afraid she has transformed in these 12 years into someone that I wouldn’t even recognize.

So instead of focusing on trying to play the role as I would imagine a mom in a fairy tale, I have found that all I really need is right in front of me. My dad is the perfect example of how to play this role.

Being a good parent is about selflessness and sacrifice and making the decision day after day to put your kids first. Donna works day and night to provide for Sophie. She had to give up the time she spent with her girlfriends or went out on dates to do what was best for her daughter. That I can understand because it is my dad’s life.

So if I can convey that kind of unconditional love and commitment to Sophie in the musical, then I think any parent or child in the audience will be able to connect.

Griess is a student at Williamsport Area High School. Her column is published in the Education section. She can be reached at education@­ sungazette.com