Dear Zoe and Tate:
I first met your mom when I was cast as her mother in a play in 2005! It seems a little funny because I'm only about 3 years older than her, but in "The Flid Show" I played her mom in flashback scenes - my scenes were in the 1960s and her scenes were in modern day. But though I played her mother, it wasn't long before she felt like a sister to me. She helped me plan my wedding (I copied the wedding color scheme from your mom and dad's gorgeous wedding!) and she even SANG at my wedding! She stood solo in the huge choir loft of the beautiful Marble Collegiate Church and closed the ceremony with "The Lord Bless You and Keep You." When your mom opened her mouth and started to sing in that glorious, soaring, angelic voice, everyone at the wedding was blown away. Our wedding video shows the pastor, gazing up at her, tears running down his face because he was so moved by her heavily singing.
After we got married, Karen and I grew even closer, as did our husbands. We all lived on the Upper West Side and we did tons of fun stuff together, but one of the things that I hold special was that your mom came every single week with me to volunteer at a soup kitchen for needy folks. She even brought other friends. Is it weird to say we had a lot of fun there? Your mom could make ANYTHING a hoot. We had the best time wherever we were.
Karen and I discovered we had a lot of special friends in common and before long a little core group of actor girl friends was forming. We decided should officially be a "girl gang". Your mom, me, Kelly McAndrew, Natalie Gold, and Charlotte Parry decided to call ourselves the "Fresh Face" gang (making fun of a feature on Broadway.com) and we had a gas whenever we got together, which was often. One time Karen, Nat, Charlotte, and I all piled into Karen's car (she very bossily told me I had to drive because she was pregnant) and drove to Baltimore to see Kelly in a show. We had a good old-fashioned slumber party girls' weekend (and that wasn't the only one we had). We sent ridiculous texts and emails and also supported each other when times got tough. At some point we started talking about "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and how Fresh Face gang should have something like that. That's how our own traveling pants support system got started. A certain pair of yoga pants was acquired and lo and behold, any time one of us particularly needed a lift, the pants magically arrived at our doorsteps, sent by the last gang member to have had them. Wearing them always helped.
Your mom and dad were beginning to think about starting a family and Kevin and I were too. I will never forget the day we came over to take your mom and dad to the park to play whiffleball (your dad is SO good at that!) with a big party of people, and before we left Karen and Todd joyfully and breathlessly, almost giggling, confided in us that they were pregnant with Zoe - and we were one of the first to know! It was amazing. Shortly after, we discovered we were pregnant with Owen! Because Karen was 6 months further along than me, she taught me everything she had already learned. And because it was Karen, she already knew a lot because she didn't mess around; everything she did, she did it right and did it the best. I gratefully gave myself over to her! She took me to the baby stores and literally told me everything to register for. She told me how to deal with morning sickness, she told me what prenatal classes to go to...I was pretty clueless and she helped me with everything! And of course she did all with good humor and fun. When you were born, Zoe, I went right to the hospital to see you and watch your mom and dad hold and love you. Because it was almost Christmas, I brought you an ornament for your Christmas tree. And of course Karen was one of the first people to come to the hospital to see Owen when HE was born! Not long after, we introduced you two babies and you have been great friends every since!
Then of course came the wonderful appearances of Ethan and Tate - two more fabulous kids and more love for our families. When I look at all the pictures I have of Karen, all together, I am not surprised to see that so many of them are of her cuddling my kids as well as hers. We went on family trips together - twice we went to Cape Cod together (all arranged by your awesome mom, of course) and you kids had a ball playing and splashing and having your own slumber parties. In 2016, we all went to the Jersey Shore together for more beach and amusement park fun. The photos we have of Karen at the top of the huge ferris wheel there are some of my very favorite of her - she is literally on top of the world, and a bright, happy, shining light in the sky.
Many people will have told you how incredible your mom was when she got sick. How her humor and determination and wit and fun and smarts and love all defined how gracefully and creatively she faced that battle. It's all true. Like everything she ever did, she did it big. She was successful in everything she did. Find a great partner? check. Be a big Broadway actor? check. Make two of the most beautiful and sweet babies in the world? check and check. Fight cancer and become internationally famous for being incredible at it? CHECK. But her cancer certainly doesn't define her. Her powerful love and humor and talent and her ability to LIVE OUT LOUD in the world, making friends with absolutely every awesome person she ever met is what defines her for me. And her laugh. Oh, that laugh. That big wow of a laugh (how did someone with the soprano voice of an angel produce that teamster belly laugh??). I will miss that laugh - and her - forever. We could do a lot of crazy fun stuff - or just lay in bed and watch tv together. But I always loved being with her. And with you two. You two and your dad light up our lives so much. I'm so grateful Karen delivered you guys to us and I want to always know you.
Dear Zoe and Tate: