The World According to Rachel: On Moms, Musicals and Everything Else

Rachel Ruecker, Senior Editor

Remember that musical I absolutely FAWNED over a couple of months ago? Well, I went again.

Only this time, I got to take someone EXTRA SPECIAL. My Canadian flight attendant mother had a New York layover and so taking her to see “Come From Away” seemed like an act of destiny. And so, I got up at 5 a.m. and trekked to the Schoenfeld Theatre on 45th Street to rush it. I sat in the cold rain for hours, all for my dear mother (okay, and me — I really like that musical, if you didn’t catch on).

I was second in line and the moment 10 o’clock hit, I paid for the tickets on my mom’s good ol’ MasterCard and eagerly awaited my mother’s arrival. Her flight was supposed to land at 5:30 p.m., giving her ample time to get to the 8 p.m. showing, but New York traffic interfered and she made it to Midtown with 15 minutes to spare before the show started.

My mother is from Eastern Canada, just north of Maine, and has a rich Irish heritage. I mean, her last name is Connolly for crying out loud. She has worked for the airlines for nearly 30 years and has done many New York layovers in her time. My parents’ careers in the aviation travel industry have defined major moments in their lives. Though I was only four years old at the time, I can still distinctly remember the morning of 9/11, waking up to a frantic phone call from my East Coast grandmother who wanted to ensure her daughter was in Vancouver and not New York. At my parent’s wedding, my dad was crowned with a Sou’Wester hat and was welcomed into the elite Atlantic province fold.

All of that is to say, seeing “Come From Away” with my mom while she was here on a layover was pretty darn special. But then again, my mom is a pretty special lady. The other day I was FaceTiming her and she showed me her ongoing home renovations — the latest being her closet expansion because she, like me, likes shopping a little too much for her own good — and she said “I’m going to die in debt, but you’ll be happy.” Cue tears.

Moms do a lot. I’m incredibly lucky to have a mom who supports me unconditionally in everything I do. I’m sure in another world she’d be thrilled to have a daughter who desperately wanted to be a brain surgeon and make ample money doing so, but in this world she never would be because she knows that wouldn’t make me happy. So here she is, paying nearly a hundred thousand Canadian dollars a year for me to go to theatre school in New York.

Thursday night, my mom was here on another layover, but I was set to have rehearsal into the wee hours of the night and wouldn’t be able to see her. She texted me at 10 p.m. asking if I was in the Tisch building — which I rarely am as I spend most of my time at Playwrights — but on this rare occasion, I was. She was outside, giving her fellow flight attendants a tour of New York.

I ran out and hugged her while all her flight attendant friends united in a chorus of “Aws.” They giggled at the Canada t-shirt I was wearing with my high school grad 2015 sweats — reminders of home and the Rachel from Canada I will always be. The interaction lasted all of 10 minutes, but my mom understood. She knows that one day, those 10 minute cameos in each other’s lives are gonna amount to leading roles. They will amount to her being my date to awards shows. At least, we can only hope.  

Friday was the last day of studio as it finishes before regular classes. All five first-year acting groups at Playwrights performed a seven-act play, and it was one of the most special things I have ever been a part of. I sobbed heartily after and exclaimed to my friends “this is what it’s all about.” Because it is. It’s about stories. It’s about people. It’s about uniting us all.

That afternoon, my high school principal Facebook messaged me because the entire Fine Arts department was on a New York trip. They were having lunch in the East Village at 3 p.m. After my last class of the day I ran over and saw teachers and kids that were freshmen when I was a senior all in the place I now call home. One of them at least. It was wild to see my small town in the big city. That small town and the theatre there compromised my whole world for five years and are the reason why theatre is my whole world now. Well, that and my mom.

Naturally, after a photo op with my teachers and a round of farewells, I called my mom while walking home. I think one of the weirdest things about being in school so far away is that my mom doesn’t see my day-to-day life anymore, but she is the entire reason why my day-to-day life is what it is. I get to reunite with the people who helped me first fall in love with theatre in Washington Square Park. I get to walk up Third Ave every night and see the Empire State Building every day and make art all the time and wear nice things — well, most of the time — because of her. My dreams are coming true because of her.

My mom came to New York for work in October and her visit conveniently overlapped with her birthday. We went to see “Aladdin” on Broadway and were taken to a new land with James Monroe Inglehart as the Genie. And while a real-life genie would be nice, I sort of have my own. Only she is 5’2’’, has red hair and I call her mom.

Email Rachel Ruecker at [email protected].