Forget Flowers

Forget Flowers

How to make this Mother’s Day cooler than the last one.

Just think: Your mom endured all that nausea, the swollen ankles, the stretch marks; she made your eyes one rainy Saturday in February and your teeth in May. Or maybe she persisted with the adoption paperwork, despite the snarky social worker, until she brought you home where you belong. She’s fixed you 6,458 grilled-cheese sandwiches, taught you how to tie your shoes and drive a car, chipped in for therapy (and that infamous post-college trip to South America). All in all, she’s not perfect but she’s yours. Hallmark holiday or not, this year show your mom that you think she’s, well, pretty magnificent.

Stage mother

The mom who once threatened to run away and join the circus can live the dream at Trapeze Arts’ 13,000-square-foot gym in West Oakland, opened by Stephen and Lili Gaudreau in 2000. The cavernous space is supported by steel girders painted purple, red, yellow, blue; it holds a majestic flying trapeze platform and bars—complete, fortunately, with net—as well as colorful ropes and hoops from which to practice aerial arts, and a 40-foot-long trampoline. Stilts and unicycles are also on hand (or foot).

“A person can hang from anything,” Lili Gaudreau says. “And we have everything.”

The Gaudreaus’ students come in all sizes and experience levels, and the staff knows how to put even the most fearful flyer at ease.

“People come because they’ve decided to try this, even if they’re nervous,” Gaudreau says. “It may take a few tries, but usually by the time the class is over, they’re thrilled at what they’ve learned in such a short time.”

Fees range from $35 for a single class to $300 for a 10-week session; private one-shot lessons range from $55 per hour for aerial arts or trampoline (one student) to $225 per hour for a flying trapeze lesson with one to four students and three instructors.

Got one of those moms who’s always belting out Aretha Franklin hits in the shower? Maybe she’d get a kick from a stint at the annual Ladies Rock Camp, a wild weekend held May 4-6 at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in downtown Oakland.

“We encourage girls and women to make noise, be loud, take up space,” says Voula O’Grady, development coordinator for Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, which sponsors the May jam session for grown-up girls.

Ladies Rock Camp doesn’t require previous musical experience, and meals are included (that last detail should be enough to get any mom’s groove on). Even better, the camp is a do-gooder deal: The $400 fee helps fund scholarships for low-income girls to attend the summer rock camp. And rest assured, your rock ’n’ roll mama will have plenty of company: Bay Area Girls Rock Camp is even contemplating adding another session of the extra-popular version for “Ladies” to its yearly lineup.

“Ladies Rock Camp gives women a chance to explore various ways they could incorporate music into their lives—so they’re thinking beyond becoming a famous rock star with a record deal,” says O’Grady.

One thing leads to another—for example, all that singing might lead to dancing. If your mom is a born booty-shaker, check out Lady Fred (a.k.a. Frédérique) and her tribal fusion/belly dance classes in Oakland. Born in Beirut, Lady Fred has some serious belly dance chops: She started studying the art in 1997 and has been performing ever since, lending her expertise to troupes such as Barbary Coast Shakedown, the Black Heart Ballads, Romani, and Ultra Gypsy. Currently Lady Fred offers performances inspired by the silent film era through her project, Silent Sirens Theatre; she also teaches around the Bay Area and beyond (this summer she’s off to Europe for an extended workshop tour).

At Temescal Arts Center and East Bay Dance Center, Lady Fred provides mixed level and beginner classes in fusion and Improv Tribal Style belly dance; she charges either by the class ($15) or by the month ($52 to $65).

Tough cookie

Would you call your mom a badass? With a bit of training, she could be a biker chick badass, too. The California Motorcyclist Safety Program offers a weekend curriculum that will have her cruising the back roads in no time.

Alameda writer and teacher Laurie Wagner took the course after her husband bought her a bike. “The class is fun and really geared for people like me who had never ridden,” she says. “It opened up the possibility that I could ride, that I could be one of those women who could strap a Harley between her legs and take off. It was totally, totally cool.”

The $250 course includes five hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of practical riding exercises conducted at the lots next to the U.S.S. Hornet in Alameda. Bikes and helmets are provided. Once a mom (or non-mom, for that matter) passes the course, the DMW waives the written portion of the motorcycle license test. As the Harleyites say, “Live to ride, ride to live!”

Got a mom with a fiery temperament? Check out the Crucible in Oakland, which trains folks in all the hot arts—fire performance, foundry, welding, and blacksmithing—as well as ceramics, jewelry making, bike building, and more. In addition to class sessions of five or 10 weeks, the Crucible offers three-hour “taster” courses and “DIY Weekend Warrior” classes in crafting wood and metal, welding sculpture, and fabricating glass beads. And, while some moms like to celebrate Mother’s Day in a kid-free fashion, others might find one of the Crucible’s “Fun Together” classes (for adults and kids ages 12 and up) just their cup of tea. Fees range from $125 to $500.

“People come to flex their creative muscles and take a break from their regular routines,” says Kristy Alfieri, education director. “It’s relaxing to use your hands to create something tangible.”

Quiet type

What with all the carpooling and lunch-packing—or running the startup, or winning architectural contracts—a mom needs to unwind. How about scoring her a gondola ride on Lake Merritt, with its beautifully restored landscape? Gondola Servizio provides tours for couples or for parties of up to 13; owners April Quinn and Angelino Sandri also offer wine and cheese tours (artisan cheeses and Prosecco paired with fruit coulis and walnut bread) or chocolate dessert tours (éclairs, truffles, flourless cake: ’nuff said). Prices range from $40 to $90 for tours for two; $150 will get you an hour for a group of 13 people or more.

Or send a stressed-out mom off to nurture her creativity at Teahouse Studio in the Strawberry Creek Design Center, a Berkeley art space that holds classes in a wild, wide range of self-expression (writing, painting, photography, embroidery, and more).

Photographer Stefanie Renee (who doesn’t use a last name), along with painter Mati Rose McDonough and life coach Tiffany Moore, rented the studio in 2011; the size was so generous that they decided to open it to others as well.

Tall windows stream light across the warm wooden floors and old-timey brickwork; a long farm table and a cozy sitting area invite visitors to stay a while; and a heating pipe swathed in multicolored scarves sparkles with tiny white lights. Stefanie Renee’s photographs and McDonough’s paintings add pops of color to the walls, and the work areas burst with the chaos of creative life.

“The space really comes alive when we have people in here,” Moore says. “That’s the reason we didn’t get a small studio together—we wanted to create a community space.

“People come to workshops, and maybe they’ve never painted before, or maybe they’ve never let themselves write creatively, but they feel called to try it,” she continues. “To offer a place for that to happen is what makes this all worthwhile.”

Word to the wise: The Teahouse hosts a May 13 Mother’s Day roundtable with writer/artist Kelly Rae Roberts and life coach/photographer Andrea Scher; on May 19 Moore does a cover-anything-with-glitter workshop.

Sure, flowers and bath salts and brunch are great. But this year, give your mom a gift that shows you know there’s more to her life than motherhood. No wrapping paper required.

Kate Madden Yee is a freelance writer based in Oakland and the astonished mother of two boys. All she wants for Mother’s Day is a Chocolate Thing from Arizmendi’s.

Beyond Brunch 
Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, 455 17th St., Suite 302, Oakland, (510) 267-1808;
California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP), (877) 743-3411;
The Crucible, 1260 7th St., Oakland, (510) 444-0919;
Gondola Servizio, 1520 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, (510) 663-6603;
The Lady Fred, Avant-Garde Bellydance Theatre, (510) 239-3733;
Teahouse Studio, 1250 Addison St., Ste. 208, Berkeley, (510) 845-1130;
Trapeze Arts, 1822 9th St., Oakland, (510) 419-0700;

Faces of the East Bay